… through the lenses of Polyvagal Theory and Structural Dynamics?
“My words might organize a gang inside your mind, who undertake a strategic plot, or just bully you to make some changes in your life you have wanted to make but could not, on your own.” ~ Hafiz
I recently watched a movie called The Master. It was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, based loosely on his longtime involvement with L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. As a kid it was always a bit of a mystery to me how that organization managed to survive – even thrive – and be endorsed by so many celebrities who seemingly should know better than to be associated with a business that draws such consistent bad-rap press.
In the movie the answer became clear: Scientology’s auditing process actually does help people surface and resolve certain kinds of traumatic memories, similar to some contemporary energy psychology processes like Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT), Core Energetics or Hakomi. Where people like Gary Craig, John Pierrakos and Ron Kurtz – the originators of those healing methodologies – managed to avoid the trap L. Ron Hubbard fell into is: they mostly refused to let a shadow cult of personality grow up around them.
While interesting, what does any of this have to do with The Two Perilous Questions, Polyvagal Theory or Structural Dynamics? Primarily this: they are each pieces of a tapestry that can help us live an increasingly creative life. And they were each originated by people who similarly have kept a shadow organization or a cult of personality from taking center stage.
Structural Dynamics is the term applied to his vision and experience of the creative process by Robert Fritz, author of many books, among them: Creating and The Path of Least Resistance. Taking his background in music composition and applying it to the creative process, Fritz recognized that like a quantum physics process that “collapses the wave function,” Step One in the creative process is recognizing and detailing exactly where we are on our creation continuum and holding that detailed recognition in recurring awareness. Step Two is envisioning and detailing exactly where we want to end up – what will constitute material, real-world completion of the creative act for us – and then holding that vision in awareness simultaneously. These two awarenesses continually held in structural dynamic tension will tend to do one thing: resolve (or collapse?) in the direction of creation. I have personally applied Fritz’ process many times in my life, from completing the work required to earn a Ph.D., to writing successful books, to hand-building my own home in Atherton, California.
With Polyvagal Theory, Stephen Porges brilliantly describes how our nervous system engages the Structural Dynamic Process. Where we are in the now-by-now creative enterprise generally produces an easy sense of homeostatic stability; where we want to end up tends to crank up the action of the smart vagus nerve and can increase vagal tone. If we try to resolve the dynamic tension between those two before it, and we are actually organically ready in brain, mind and body, we can often end up a frozen daiquiri in the headlights – the familiar vegetative vagus freeze response. By learning to recognize and consciously and compassionately address this particular design in our nervous system, we can begin to move slowly, but inexorably towards those things we want to have showing up in our lives (for me currently, it’s a little more cash flow and a little more than a few less fat cells – 30 pounds worth).
Enter The Two Perilous Questions
Patricia Hopkins and Sherry Ruth Anderson extracted The Two Perilous Questions out of their extensive Appreciative Inquiry research that resulted in the publication of the book, The Feminine Face of God. The Two Perilous Questions are: What’s True For Me? and What Do I Want? These were the questions asked over and over in some form by each of the creative, spiritually mature women Sherry Ruth and Patricia interviewed. By repeatedly asking and answering those questions, much like Paul Thomas Anderson showed Lancaster Dodd, the main character in his Master movie doing, traumatic memories can surface and be resolved. It is those unconscious memories that often operate to stop us dead in our creative efforts. We need them to surface and begin to move us in the direction of healing resolution. It’s often their distracting and debilitating emotional charge that ends up immobilizing us in our creative efforts. Bit by bit that charge can gradually diminish, and free up increasing neural real estate to place in the service of creativity. We almost effortlessly become unstuck; goals and dreams held in Structural Dynamic tension help new brain neurons begin to grow and make increasing connections; old, little-used neural pathways retract and, as more and more non-necessary neurons naturally die, toxins begin to flush from our bodies; new ideas and opportunities for furthering our creative vision begin to pop into conscious awareness, including recognizing people in our circle who might love to help us move in the direction of our heart’s desires. Growth and change are often the result as dynamic tension inexorably, almost magically resolves in the direction of creation.