Posted by: Marie | June 2, 2010

(326) Guest Post: Healing to the Root

Post #326

Guest Post

Today, I am honored to publish a guest post written by Judith Barr. Judith has been a depth psychotherapist in private practice for over 30 years and offers her healing expertise in an array of formats: working with individuals, couples, groups, workshops, consultations, and training and supervision for healing professionals. In a world where “quick-fix” and “get over it” teachings re-bury our wounds to come back to haunt us, Judith helps people go beyond managing behavior, thoughts and feelings, to heal to the core and to feel emotions safely, using them as guides to healing . . . friends and partners in the healing process.

Through her book Power Abused, Power Healed, her more than four dozen articles for both professionals and the general public, her blogs Power Abused, Power Healed and PoliPsych, and her speaking engagements, media appearances and teleconferences, Judith teaches about how we can help heal the misuse and abuse of power in all arenas of life – from the inside out – and how we can help to create sustainable safety in our world.

In this article, Judith explores the prevalence of “quick fixes” in our society and in our world when it comes to healing our ancient wounds, the tragic consequences of trying to “manage,” control, repress, or ignore wounds and feelings from our childhood, and the vast healing that is possible when we commit to healing to the root!

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Grabbing for a Temporary Band-Aid or Quick Fix?
How About Healing to the Root Instead?

It is a tragedy . . . that so many in our society and our world are hooked on quick fixes. It is a tragedy . . . that instead of truly healing our wounds, so many are latching onto band-aids. It is a tragedy that not only society at large, but even some therapies and therapists, teach and preach managing our thoughts and feelings. Not our actions, with which we do need to take care. But our thoughts and feelings. It is a tragedy that even so many of our spiritual teachers suggest we control our thoughts and feelings, and even replace them with something else . . . instead of using them as clues to help heal our wounds. It is a tragedy that some in the healing arts teach that the painful feelings – such as sorrow, hurt, fear, and anger – are negative feelings and that we should turn away from them and focus on the positive. And it is an even worse tragedy that ordinary people, hungry for healing, believe these teachings and try so hard to make them work . . . only to decide when they can’t make them work that it’s because they, themselves, are a failure.

On the Mountain by Martin Chen

It is a tragedy for an individual to believe that if you just focus on the positive, the negative will disappear. This completely disregards and discounts the reality that we each have an unconscious part of ourselves. It is a tragedy for an individual, a society, our world. It is a tragedy for an individual to, as the song goes, “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” * For when you focus on the ‘positive’ and ignore the ‘negative’ (as I have described it above), you bury once again the wound and all the feelings that go with it . . . leaving it to haunt you day by day, to create in your life and to drive you from your own underground, and also to build the energy to explode out into your conscious life once again. And when you do this as a society, you can “smile and be happy” on the surface while your world turns into a destructive, cruel dictatorship such as Hitler’s Germany. This is how Germany became a Nazi nation in the last century. Children were “reared” with abusive tactics – including Adolph Hitler himself. So when he came into power and acted out his vengeance for his own childhood abuse . . . too many joined him, for their own protection and also in acts of vengeance for their childhood abuse. **

As little children, the pain and other intense feelings that come of our wounding is way too much, way too intense for a child to feel. As a result, we reflexively bury the pain . . . or somehow disconnect ourselves from it. Our method of disconnecting is one of our defenses. We create many . . . to move us further and further away from the pain. Many defenses. Many coping mechanisms. Many early decisions that help us stay in the maze of our defense against the pain and our vicious cycles of reenactments of the wounding we experienced. . . all calling out to be healed.

Once we grow up . . . we now hold the pain at bay not only with the techniques of our child self, but also with the tools of our adult self – our rational minds (I’m big now, I don’t have to let them hurt me anymore), our philosophical selves (whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger), our spiritual beliefs however distorted (this was a test with many lessons in it).

And as child after child grows up (or comes to live in a big body), not only does the child within drive the defense against the ancient pain, but the big person also pitches in for the cause. The big people in today’s world are just as terrified now of feelings as they were when they were children . . . perhaps even more, since they don’t know the terror is really from long ago. And since they don’t realize they are colluding to feed the terror in many distorted ways . . . among them:

– Telling children “I’ll give you something to cry about!”

– Telling children “Don’t you give me any lip!”

– Being contemptuous of other “big people” when they feel and show their feelings.

– Taking drugs earlier and earlier and making them more and more part of everyday life in order to get away from the pain – becoming addicted and then drug by drug or drink by drink becoming more and more afraid of experiencing the pain beneath the defense.

– Supporting the worst aspects of the traditional mental health system: the perspective of the system that makes wounding a mental and behavioral issue . . . leaving the feelings behind as some “proof” of sickness. The one that gives the impression that the people with more severe wounding, or more visible wounding, are somehow “different,” “sick,” “crazy,” and therefore the only ones who need help . . . while everyone else is “sane” and “normal” and is doing “just fine” without therapy, no matter how wounded they are! No matter the impact on others of their wounding!

– Accepting being medicated by psychiatrists and internists as a substitute for healing . . . with medications that supposedly get rid of feelings, but which really only leave the feelings underground, to rise again whenever they can. Or to be pushed to the surface by the sheer need to bring them into consciousness in order to work them through. . . unless those feelings are worked with at the same time as the medication is being taken. ***

– Holding on tight to their decision not to feel.

– Being cynical about the possibilities for healing.

When I listen to Peter, Paul, and Mary sing their song Greenwood, I am deeply moved. In my heart I hear them singing about what I am describing here.****

If you have been wounded as a child, don’t settle for less than healing to the very root of your wound. Don’t settle for therapies that offer further defenses against the pain of the wound . . . although you may need the help to bear the pain of the wound in order to go to the root. Although you may need the help to build your capacity to feel the pain of the wound in order to move step by step to the core.

Find a therapist who feels this way. A therapist who does his/her own personal healing work. A therapist who does professional consultations with people in the field. A therapist who isn’t afraid of feelings, his/her own and yours. A therapist who can help you express, inhabit, release buried feelings in a purposeful, responsible, and safe way. A therapist who understands what transference is, can discern the difference between here and now reality and transference from long, long ago, and can help you tease the two apart. A therapist who couldn’t imagine healing that was any less than to the root. A therapist who holds you sacred and honors your unique self, as well as your own relationship with the Divine, however you know it.

© Judith Barr, 2010

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* Understanding this, feeling the import of this, is so crucial that I devoted an entire chapter of my book on this subject. Chapter Six: I’m Positively Not Gonna Deal with The Negative, Power Abused, Power Healed

** For more on how Hitler’s childhood affected our world: For Your Own Good by Alice Miller

*** NOTE: Stopping medication needs to be done in partnership with a doctor because of the harmful possibilities if done spontaneously or on one’s own.

**** Peter, Paul, and Mary, Greenwood lyrics : Peter Yarrow

Power, like lightning, is a raw, vibrant force of nature . . . with the potential for great harm and the possibility for magnificent good.

Judith Barr
Power Abused, Power Healed
www.PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com
JudithBarr@PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com


Responses

  1. Hi Judith, I’m wondering if you have any advice on how to find a therapist like this.

  2. Thanks for your wonderful question, Evan.
    I often teach people how to find a right therapist for them and how to know when they have or haven’t.

    It is a process . . . not a simple answer.
    But here are some things that may help:

    1. Explore in a multitude of ways possible therapists for you to contact. Often the best way to find a good therapist is through someone you know. So ask anyone you feel might be a good source – friends or colleagues, for example. If there is a trustworthy workshop center in your area, you might ask the director of the center for referrals. Clergy and university counseling centers are also possible places for referrals. There are also online directories. Just like any other referral source, you need to do the work after you find a name. Your state counseling association’s online directory is one option; the online site of GoodTherapy.org is another option.

    2. Once you have at least a few names, make a list of questions you want to ask that person. You can start with the things I said to look for in the last paragraph of my guest post. You can also take a look at the article on my website, entitled What to Look for in A Therapist or Healer or Spiritual Teacher.
    http://www.judithbarr.com/PowerAbusedPowerHealed/pages/articles-lookfor.htm

    3. Call each of the people on your list. You might want to ask a few of the questions on the phone, but live and in person is best for the whole list. Ask the questions and see how the person responds to them . . . not just the words s/he says in answer to your questions, but also the tone, the feel, and (when in person) the body language. You, yourself, will get a better sense of the person live, face-to-face. But you might get a sense from a few questions on the phone whether it may be a right enough match to take a next step and do a live consultation.

    4. If you don’t know yet that it is a right match, be sure to say you’d like to have a consultation to explore further until you do know. Don’t start doing therapy with someone until you know. And ask your questions until you know. . .seeing how the therapist responds to your questions and to you, and checking inside how you feel in your interactions with the therapist.

    5. Be patient and persistent in your own behalf. Don’t start doing therapy with someone until you get the sense that this is a good person for you to begin with.

    I hope this is helpful to you, Evan.
    Judith

  3. Thank you, Judith, for all the great follow-on info! Evan asked an important question and I like that you provided a valuable answer.

    I can tell you that I did almost none of those steps when selecting Mark and Dr. Barb as my therapists . . . and, the results were consistent with my poor selection process.

    I really appreciate your guest post! This is important information!

    – Marie


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