Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shadows, Sticking Up For Oneself, and Overshooting the Mark

Shadow work. Ever hear of that? I studied it at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. I included a chapter on it in a book I wrote called Changing the World One Relationship at a Time. Paul and I sometimes address shadow pieces of a person's nature in spiritual counseling and healing sessions. But that doesn't mean either one of us is beyond having a shadow or two to contend with of our own, at least from time to time.

Bummer.

The "shadow" supposedly is where "good" and "right-thinking" people store their anger and cynicism and rage, all those "bad" thoughts righteous, spiritual, "good" people aren't supposed to have. And then, when they're not looking, when they least expect it, some innocent thing triggers the monsters to come roaring out of the closet. Damn!

Lately, I've been going through a rough patch emotionally. Oddly enough, when things are going the best they've ever been on some fronts. But that's usually how it goes. You stuff your feelings down so you can keep an optimistic positive face on during the worst of times and then the first time things go well and you let your guard down all those icky awful feelings come roaring to the top.

The feelings seem so out of context, so unrelated to what's really happening that people, myself included, often think the feelings must be justified. The boogey man must really be out there, evil really must be lurking in the dark, because why else would I feel so awful? Talk about the experience of believing there are "negative entities" in one's space! An awful lot of the time, activation of someone's "shadow" material is all that's really going on. We push our unacceptable beliefs and feelings far away because we refuse to identify that icky stuff as our own and then, woosh!, there it is, taking a form we don't have to believe is ourselves.....but it really is.

I'm talking about that bookshop in Santa Cruz again. Paul just showed me what he wrote months ago and how it was resolved. I remember all that, of course, but at the time I was miffed at him for being so angry and "unreasonable" that I refused to accept that the feelings he was expressing were exactly the same as my own. Then a simple email brought all those feelings back and the next thing I knew was firing blasts of gunshot over my bow.

I'm expecting at least one of our next clients to come in with a long-buried issue that she doesn't think matters anymore completely disrupting her life and running the show. That almost always happens when some freaky thing happens to disrupt things for Paul and me psychologically. As soon as we work it out, or when we really need help to get a handle on it, the next 2 or 3 or 4 people come in with variations of the same thing. That happened when I worked as a caregiving consultant for Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center and most therapists and healthcare professionals report the same thing: you're messed up in some big or small way in your own life and all your clients come in complaining of the same thing until you work it out.

That's what supervision and mentorship is for in these other professions. Thank God Paul and I have each other. Usually, within a few days, no more than a week or two, one of us will pull the other one out. I've been strongly considering the idea of starting a healing arts healing group -- a place where healers can go to get help with what comes up in the course of doing their work. It seems essential. Without that kind of support you can get lost and spiral into burn-out, depression or worse. You can even lose your perspective and do other people (and organizations) harm. And that's pretty much the opposite of what any of us really intend.

Strangely enough, Paul always has wished I'd come out of my shell and stand up for myself more. But, frequently, the wimpiest ones among us wind up with the biggest stick. Trying to make up for missed opportunities and lost time, perhaps?

I keep thinking of the new Spiderman movie where wimpy Peter Parker (Spidey) gets taken over by his 'dark" side. I actually loved that until it went too far. He was so much more able to take care of himself and show a little charisma. I was disappointed at movie's end.

In the world of psychology the key of having a healthy personality is not to relegate painful emotions to the dark side but to integrate them in a positive way. We need our power, our ability to say what's missing and stand up for what's right. Sometimes we need to swagger a little, feel proud and worthy of being treated with respect. I was trained out of doing that at a young age. A lot of us get that. And on the road back sometimes you overshoot the mark, get belligerent and strike out with all you've got.

But that generally leads to a strike-out of another sort.

For me, that has meant embarrassing myself and beating a hasty retreat. And that's what Spiderman did (to some extent) too.

In the next Spidey movie I want to see Peter Parker get his groove back and have the kind of fun he had in this last movie without hurting himself or others. Wouldn't that be a great thing?

Is Big Brother Watching You?

You might be surprised to discover that your fairly unknown and little- read blog IS being monitored by search programs designed to pick up specific names and phrases. These programs dash off a note to whomever signs up for such a service whenever you hit "publish" and alerts them to your message.

Ironically enough, I had a moment of paranoia earlier this week when I thought the FBI was monitoring this blog. Paul and I have a stat counter that lets us know where in the world readers come from -- we don't know anything else about people (don't freak out!) -- just where people are finding out about us and, occasionally, what search engine they use. (Google is by far the most popular.) Some search engine in Washington, D.C. appears to show up on our stats whenever we write about George Bush and the war in Iraq.

But it goes both ways in this case. After all I know about them looking (whoever they are) and I have to admit to feeling a little creepy myself. But that's nothing compared to expressing a little self-righteous grief and indignation -- inappropriately as it turns out -- about a local bookshop in Santa Cruz and having their blog police immediately respond with a comment to this site.

Whoa!

And, okay, fair enough. I was saying something I wouldn't have said had I been aware that they had addressed a problem Paul and I were upset about before. And I chose to remove that blog entry so don't bother trying to find it. But did this internet tussle make anyone involved feel any better? No! Not likely.

We felt embarrassed and ashamed for expressing our feelings in print. No doubt someone over there felt pissed that they were being criticized in print.

Still, it is weird and more than a little disconcerting.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Wizards Behind the Curtains

Questions floating in the air. How can con artists succeed at swindling hundreds of people out of their life savings doing healing ? How come we don't dare to claim that the work we do could make the "dumb speak and the lame walk" in a single session even though there are plenty of other "healers" out there who say they do? What, if anything, has held us back from doing those 5 minute miraculous healings you sometimes hear about?

Well, for one thing we don't have the circus tent and get the populace all worked up into a faith-in-God frenzy before we slap them on the head and say "YOU'RE HEALED!!" We don't wrap ourselves in fancy robes, light candles and recite magical incantations either. We don't charge $300 or more per session, make them write an essay about why they deserve to be healed by us, or resort to other tricks of the healing trade to trick people into committing to themselves and what we do in the process.

Actually we HAVE done miraculous healings in 5 minutes or even less. But we had to spend a period of time, first, preparing the soil, helping our clients believe it was possible, that it was safe to allow, and so on. By the time we're done people go, wow, this spot in my back doesn't hurt anymore. But they don't seem overly awed by us. How could they? Our whole persona is to be relaxed, normal-ish, totally non-threatening and not scary Paul and Sheryl. We're just like them except we also do this neato-keen spiritual counseling and healing stuff.

Paul and I were discussing this this morning. We're both, but he in particular, enamored of the movie "The Wizard of Oz." The question came up: Would we rather our clients came to us because they thought we were the all-powerful and wonderful wizard? Or because we're the people who are willing to lift up the curtain and teach them that the power and healing they desire has been within themselves all along?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What Dr. Phil Was Said to Say

Did the Dr. Phil-like comment at the end of my last blog entry rub someone the wrong way? Or did it act as a wake-up slap just to me?

I worry about what to say and how to say it a little too much sometimes. Frequently, I censor half of what I write. Other times I'm ready to jump right into the fray and Paul slows me down and forces me to reconsider the wisdom in alienating half our reading audience. Frequently, I try to do the same to him. Once, when I was about to cure myself of the fear of being too honest, I got a Marketing Newsletter from a self-proclaimed expert who warned her readers not to give in to using blogs as a way to say what's really on your mind. Her mindset was that you should stay on message -- your marketing message -- ALL the time.

Kind of like what we see George Bush and many other political candidates do. "What's your opinion of thus and so, Mr. President?" "War on terrorism, no new taxes" would be the response. Stay on message, stay on target. Don't think your own thoughts and, certainly, don't make the mistake of expressing them.

Sigh.

Spiritual counselors and healers are supposed to be all warm and fuzzy, everything is love and light, makes you feel good, like everything's all right. When it isn't, not from our limited human perspective at any rate.

But neither do we intend to add to the milieu of despair and disrespect and discouragement, fear-mongering and outright crap most of us are exposed to every day-- especially if you watch TV and what passes for news night after night.

People who really are afraid that negative entities are ruining their lives can't handle hearing that all they have to do is "change their thoughts" and they'll go away -- even if it's pretty much the only way. It sounds like the healer is saying "It's all your fault. Your thinking is to blame. How could you believe something so "stupid"?!" That kind of thing.

That's not what I meant to say.

But what's the difference between someone who is afraid they are attracting negative energies all the time and someone who is afraid of everything they eat? What's the difference between being "chemically sensitive" and thinking you're vulnerable ALL THE TIME to psychic attacks?

We see this scenario in our spiritual counseling practice from time to time and it's really starting to get me mad. Nobody likes to believe they created a painful and absolutely unworkable reality. Nobody deserves to be told "it's your fault, it's all in your head." I don't want to be told that either.

But there's a thread that binds all these scenarios together and that's the idea that there are lots of people (myself included) who, at least for a brief period in their lives, were forced to give up what for others would constitute a "normal" kind of life. I get really angry about that. I think that's why when Paul and I went to the Gay Pride Celebration in Santa Cruz this past weekend I found myself in tears for half the day. So many wonderful, unconventional and oh, so human, expressions of how a person can be. Uncensored, unfettered and free. But maybe, given the Gay Pride Movement's example, it's important for many of us to realize that "normal" isn't what it's cracked up to be. It keeps people fettered, holds them down, holds us as a nation back.

Thank God you brave beautiful people out there are out of the closet at least on Gay Pride Day. It gives some of us hope. Maybe we could be so proud of who we really are, too.

A lot of us have parents who tried to teach us to be "safe" by scaring us out of any adventurous thing we looked like we might want to do. "AAAGH!!! GET DOWN FROM THERE!!" my mother screamed out the window at me one day. I don't blame her for that. It must have been gut-wrenching to see her baby walking tightrope style across the top of the swing set. But I've been afraid of heights ever since... just like her... and I wasn't until that day.

That's how the imprinting happens. Innocently. For the "best." But if I had had a circus mother she might have said "Hold on, baby. Let me get a mattress for you to jump down onto before you go across." My mother never would have thought of that.

Deepak Chopra once wrote: "One thing we can do is make the choice to view the world in a healthy way. We can choose to see the world as safe with only moments of danger rather than seeing the world as dangerous with only moments of safety."

Or you can insist that the world IS a safer place by working together with people like yourself to ensure that this is so.

At some point, you have to know that you deserve to have this. Because if you give in to feeling like there's something wrong with you and spend your life hiding yourself away for being different—because you have a non-hetero sexual orientation, because you get sick from toxic situations the rest of the world accepts in stride, because you're more sensitive, too awake, too unwilling to go along the status quo, or because you are physically, emotionally and spiritually UNABLE to go along—then you might as well not exist. Maybe being proud of who you are—like you deserve a parade—is where the real healing begins. And if you can embrace this test, the set of life experiences this situation creates -- the gay lifestyle, the chemical-free environment, the inability to have a "normal" job, a "normal" way of life (and the resulting freedom to do what you might not otherwise have had a chance to do)—then you may get to live a life that is bigger and braver and more exciting than you might ever have expected for yourself.

Braver?

Like walking on top of the swing set. Unafraid, and more capable than the average suburban captive I was brought up to be. When I swung on my swing in the backyard, higher and higher, over and over again, imagining myself as a great circus performer perfecting my craft so I could leap off at the highest point possible without falling down (my mother never caught me doing that) I never imagined there would come a time when I'd be afraid to do that very thing.

That kind of bravery is something we all deserve to have.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hucksters and Healers

Charlatans and hucksters make us sick! It is so frustrating to be in an alternative field with people who make headlines by ripping people off. I'm referring to the San Jose Mercury News article about two alleged scam artists who called themselves "faith or mystic healers" and are now charged with grand theft for deceiving and taking advantage of hundreds of people. They claimed to "guarantee" results and then, their accusers say, proceeded to convince people through magic tricks and stage settings that they (the healers) were all powerful, that their clients were possessed or cursed, and that they needed to have those demons released or the curse lifted or they would only get worse or possibly die.

Too many times we've met people in our practice who were told this very thing -- "This fortune-teller (or reputable-sounding healer) told me I have a negative 'entity' in my space. Can you heal me of that?"

We HAVE met people who had a guide or an angel (or a part of their psyche that acted like a guide or angel) prodding them to change their lives. We've even met people who had what seemed like a dead relative or unidentified "entity" in their environment. But EVERY time we investigated further there was an element of the person's personality -- either a belief system they held or a particular habit that brought that element in.

I also have had personal experience with having been told by well-meaning friends and healers that symptoms I was struggling with were caused by "entities." They helped remove those so-called entities from my field and I felt an immediate relief -- which made it even more convincing --only to have some other so-called entity come right back in a week or so later. Then it had to be done again and again.

Until I said STOP! and made it change. This didn't happen before I thought it was possible. It wasn't in my belief system. I didn't believe in devils and demons... but I did grow up in a society where a large number of people do believe it (or at least were taught to fear it might be true). And when you hear a belief repeated often enough, on some level, it can start to affect your thoughts and feelings, too. And that's where the trouble begins. Because, to a large extent, what you believe (or at least can allow to be true) is what you bring in.

People who say "I don't believe I'll ever be a success" let any small setback act as an excuse. People who believe "they can't fail" use setbacks as a clue as to how to chart a better course. That's the mundane "real world" example of how it's done. But faith healing is all about that, too. The healer has to have faith that what they do is beneficial and they need to convey that to the client to be effective. Whether the client is a True Believer or not is often immaterial-- but the client has to at least be open to allowing the healing to happen. And, as the client develops trust and faith in the process, the healing works more and more. But, unfortunately, hucksters and rip-off artists know the importance of faith and trust, too, and they can take advantage of it as well.

Do reputable healers ever "guarantee" success? They don't have to. They know the end result, ultimately, isn't up to us. You might not want to hear that your job, your eating habits, your addictions or your relationship is "killing" you - literally or figuratively. You might not want to believe what we have to say. And ultimately, we can't control what you will do with the information you receive. Our responsibility isn't to heal you regardless of what you say or do--it's to assist in your process as best we can. And that's all any healing arts professional is called upon to do (doctors and other healthcare professionals included).

And what about negative entities and so-called demons? Well, first you should know that when I stopped lending credence to the belief that entities attaching to me was something to watch out for and be concerned about that experience went away for good.

How do Paul and I handle it in our practice? We talk about it: What else could be causing this? Could these "demons" actually be cut-off parts of a person's psyche that need to be addressed? What do they have to say to us? What are they trying to make us be more aware of? What's going on in our client's life that would even bring this in?

Drugs or alcohol are sometimes involved. Sometimes there is a need to say good-bye and make peace with a beloved (or not so beloved) parent who has passed on. Often there is an unresolved trauma or history of abuse that has to be addressed. And, frequently, when that work is done the almost palpable heaviness in their field lifts and the visceral sensation is as if an actual being has left the space.

We don't know whether that means a spiritual entity actually has come and gone. I specifically work with the belief that there are beings that work on our behalf but what's the truth? Sometimes it's easier for a person's psyche to address certain things as if they were not part of their actual selves. Maybe if we knew the true scope of who we are (as the Buddhists like to point out) we wouldn't need that. Who knows what's really going on? It can't be seen. It can't be proven.

We try to maintain a pragmatic point of view. Believing that positive healing spirit guides exist works for me even though I also believe that we, as a society, could have created that as a mental construction. But as Dr. Phil might say: "Is believing negative entities are invading your space workin' for ya?"

We didn't think so.