Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fighting Dragons

This is a very well-known sculpture in the world of Anthroposophy, by Rudolf Steiner.
 It is the Christ gesture of man, where his left arm holds the forces that represent Lucifer at bay, and where his right arm holds the forces that represent Ahriman at bay. Briefly, luciferic forces are overly chaotic, overly idealistic, and selfishly disregarding others. Ahriman has a darker, more evil overtone; being overly controlled, overly sparse, letter-of-the-law, and void of empathy or emotion.  These are the extremes: hot/cold, male/female, love/hate, etc. This duality and even multiplicity  of our nature is recognized plenty among different religions and in culture.I
In the middle of the sculpture though, Steiner depicts the Christ gesture of man...man embodying Christ....as balancing these two forces. We need a little warmth of chaos, and we need a little order and lawfulness...just not too much of either or we lose the light if love. Even the Buddha spoke to his followers in a sermon of Buddhism's middle way: "Monks, these two extremes should not be followed   by   one   who   has   gone   forth as a   wanderer.  What   two?   Devotion   to the  pleasures  of  sense . . .  [and]  devotion  of self-mortification,  which  is  painful, unworthy and unprofitable . . . . By avoiding these two extremes the [Buddha] has gained knowledge of the middle path which giveth vision, which giveth knowledge, enlightenment [nirvana]. "
Fall 2013 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly  39
In the context of today, though, in the light of what is happening in the world, I believe these dualities in every way represent our innate fight or flight response to trauma.
One phrase I frequently quote on this blog is from Bessel VanDer Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score.  He points out that trauma "inevitably involves not being seen, not being heard, and not being taken into account." When one considers all the marginalized groups, and the scapegoating either through blatant sexism and racism, or exploitation, it makes sense that we have a culture of traumatized people. And some argue that neoliberalism in culture is traumatizing. I believe it is.
Tomorrow is Michaelmas...the festival of finding our inner light. For me, it is about finding the middle way. It is about acknowledging my own inner dragons attached to fight or flight behaviors, and the outer dragons I am forced to fight.
My dragons of flight involve giving up, avoiding, putting my head in the sand, not wanting to see, molding silence, cultivating apathy, taking on a stance of "let's all be happy", hiding behind all sorts of distractions, betraying myself to the core, complete submission, martyrdom. Dragons of fight are less familiar to me and include hot anger, retaliation, denial, self-justification, contempt, judgement, intention to harm, pleasure in bringing about the suffering of another human being, cold indifference, and enacting revenge.
Trauma, fight or flight, not being seen or heard- inevitably involves an oppressor/oppressed situation. That's what neoliberalism creates and tucks into so many pockets of our country's Big Daddy overcoat. But before even tackling the situation of being oppressed, and hopefully an oppressor or two would give up their cushy position to join the ranks of the less entitled, before that is even thought about, one must find deep courage. In order to do that, one must go through the forces of flight and fight, to acknowledge the value of one's own humanity.
There is a middle way, beyond dragons of sloth and chaos, there is a balance to be held within in order to deal with the larger dragons of the world in which we live. In bringing into balance our own dragons, we gain the courage and strength to bring to the world at large and really tackle larger issues.
Walter Wink, in Engaging the Powers, writes about  "Jesus's Third Way":
Jesus's Third Way
-seize the moral initiative
-find a creative alternative to violence
-assert your own humanity and dignity as a person
-meet force with ridicule or humor
-break the cycle of humiliation
-refuse to submit or accept the inferior position
-expose the injustice of the system
-take control of the power dynamic
-shame the oppressor into repentance
-stand your ground
-make the Powers make decisions for which they are not prepared
-recognize your own power
-be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
-force the oppressor to see you in a new light
-deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective
-be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws
-die to fear of the old order and its rules
-seek the oppressor's transformation
Flight: submission, passivity, withdrawal, surrender
Fight: armed revolt, violent rebellion, direct retaliation, revenge

Gandhi insisted that no one join him who was not willing to take up arms and fight for independence. They could not freely renounce what they had not entertained. One cannot pass directly from "flight" to "Jesus's Third Way". One needs to pass through the "fight" stage, if only to discover one's own inner strength and capacity for violence. One need not actually become violent, but one does need to own one's fury at injustice and care enough to be willing to fight, and if necessary, die for its eradication. Only then can a person freely renounce violence and embrace active nonviolence."
-again, that is all found in Walter Wink's "Engaging the Powers"

Martin Luther King said there can be no justice without equality. There can be no justice where there is a bully. There can be no justice when there is an oppressor. Justice comes when people join as equals. And justice comes when one finds the heat of courage, the flaming truth, the heart arching forward towards inner freedom.
It then becomes about more than inner freedom. It becomes focused on your power to enact the freedom of another. It becomes courage in action...to do the right thing even when it seems impossible. To really look at one's own dark dragons...to step forward...to say what needs to be said...no dragon was ever conquered without having courageous souls muster up their duty to protect and stop suffering...to stop oppression of any kind.
"Seek the oppressor's transformation." Oh, I do, I prayerfully do.
Here's to a courageous Michaelmas. The divine is found when we clearly live without oppressing, and where we speak up against oppression, even our own.  May we all find our middle way. May we all honor each other's humanity.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Savvy Dating



So, online dating. I love to bitch about online dating. I love to write funny, irreverent, and sometimes very strange profiles just to see how people react and what kind of person is out there. I don't know why it strikes me as funny, and maybe it just indicates my own fears and quirks. But I think it's funny and that's that.
No one reads your profile anyway. How do I know? Because when I created a fake profile with a picture of my hamster looking for a woman, at least until it violated the dating site's rules and they removed my cute picture, I received a few messages like these:

"Wow! You spark up my entire thinking faculty. I am ready to stop searching, and who knows, the rose in my heart could be yours (lol). I'm J, I'm new on here, write a note and I'll reply back instantly.Just you may wish to email too.you on my mind."

"I was searching through and i saw your profile ,and  am quite fascinated by your picture, smile and happy face..i will sure love to meet a cute woman like you, i'm a man with joyful character, optimistic, respectful, sensual.i will like to chat if you don't mind... "


"Good day Dear, Am sorry for interrupting your evening with my message. How is work with you this week and I hope you had a stress free time at work and your family is doing good? Am d. I am new here and am so glad to have come across your profile. I didnt just click on you by coincidence, I believe everybody has that place in their heart that requires that special warmth feeling and nursing. Its my pleasure to appreciate your beauty and personality cause I know its something you hear everyday but I have got to say it again and I hope it gets to your heart. I think the personality and the soul is what makes a person beautiful, not only physical appearance. I am interested in you and would like to know more about you, pls feel free to ask questions and you can text me (---)as I will like to be your friend. You have an awesome smile and I love your hair, pls feel free to ask questions. I really want to know you more"

"Hello gorgeous lady, I'm so sorry for infringe into your privacy but a word say that a picture is worth of a thousands words you're stunning and charming lady, I will like to know you better if you don't?.."​

So naturally, I am amused. I am amused and also hopeful when I hear of people actually having good luck on those sites.
When I've had my real picture up, in more playful moods, I lied about my age and made myself 41. That was fun because then I suddenly had the 25-year-old-set-seeking-novel-older-woman-experiences. Those conversations went like this:
him: Do you mind dating younger?
me: Dude, you're my daughter's age
him: we can make her jealous
me. ummmmm
him: I'm a nudist
me: silence

And my favorite one: "Wow, there's no way you're 41" -pause to say I almost fell off my chair laughing...that's right, I passed 41 7 years ago.- "you look way younger" Ha.



So there's the fun part of that. It really is funny and a poll of girlfriends on dating sites reveals many more funny stories.
But now I'm going to switch to the "savvy" part, because, honestly, I've primarily met some really kind, genuine, beautiful men online. So I'm not really saying it's all bad. As one person told me, it's all what you make of it.
And what I've made of it is a learning, healing, and growing experience.
The biggest learning has been about attachment styles. It's important to know because divorce can be traumatizing, childhood can be traumatizing and help you bring patterns into the present that sabotage your relationships. It's just smart so you can pinpoint your own patterns, and know if you are going to be with someone with similar emotional compatibility. It's good to have a language to use around it, and in deepening your learning, you develop compassion. Everyone's trying to muck their way through fear and longing and the past at the same time.
The three styles are anxious/ambivalent, avoidant, and secure. Secure people are those who have a high comfort level with feelings and intimacy, and they are pretty scarce in online dating, due to the fact that they are likely to end up partnered, most likely with another secure. Anxious/ambivalent styles are more frequent in occurrence and are most often women. This style manifests in clinging, pursuing behavior when intimacy wounds are triggered. Avoidants populate the online dating pool in greater numbers and tend to be men. Avoidants shut down emotionally and run when intimacy wounds are triggered. Often these styles find each other and start the great pursuer-distance dance.
Underlying both of these styles is a deep-seated fear of abandonment, or, perhaps, as Terry Real says that for men, it's fear of subjugation.
It's all trauma, and the strange thing, your attachment style is activated as a fight or flight response to intimacy, because closeness is unconsciously perceived as a threat. It's a fearful way of being, and so hard to figure out how to find your way to love once faced with your past wounds.
Avoidants will say things like, "my ex always had to be in a relationship" or that women of their past were overly emotional or clingy. To be fair, sometimes that is true. Still, avoidance in men is an extreme that many women have experienced and there is even this cultural expectation that women are not supposed to need a man, that that somehow makes you weak or dependent or needy. But we are ALL hard-wired to be relational beings. It's how the human race has survived. One of my friends was saying how she felt it was not ok to need a man. I reassured her that yes, it is ok and GOOD to need a man. Why beat up on yourself for your very valid needs and desires? I need a man. Being lonely is no fun. Sometimes you just want someone else to kill the bug in the bathroom, to call the plumber, to tell your news to, to give a hug to. What's wrong with that? Avoidants hold on to the extreme belief that it is somehow a bad thing to be in relationship, yet they feel lonely and will still seek out relationships for themselves.
That's where therapy helps me keep my head on straight: that I want someone who is ultimately supportive, present, and a partner in every way. And, that I want to continue taking charge of my own healing so I have resources to bring to the table. Lots of it is needs management, and that just requires trust, openness, a willingness to be transparent and vulnerable, and total compassionate acceptance of yourself and your beloved. And the ability to be freely yourself while allowing someone else that luxury too. By now, I've learned how to walk past abuse or extreme unavailability and can open my heart to learning to enjoy the good stuff. Like the basics: respect, encouragement, friendship, sexiness, trust, engagement.
I'm not online right now on any sites, as I explore other options and continue my inner work. But if I ever need to practice my avoidant-detecting skills, have a laugh, or just remind myself that kind men do still exist, it's always there.
It's all good.



Raising a Narcissist Part 2

Last year, I wrote a post in response to a rash of articles online about raising a narcissist, or I should say, how NOT to raise a narcissist. My beef with some of these articles is that they were shallow fluff, and didn't really understand what narcissism as a personality disorder is, or how abusive narcissists really are. I was thinking about how many articles with lists there are on the internet, and how they direct you to do something...to change something...to look at something more closely. This is not going to be another list. DOING something is good. But I want to look deeper, into how we are BEING with each other.
Narcissism is operating from the one-up position of grandiosity with a heaping dose of exploitation. It is possessing a sixth sense that allows all forms of manipulation and emotional blackmail to flourish. Underlying these, the bedrock of narcissism, is entitlement. It is a fierce conviction that one is entitled not just to use others to gain advantage, but to never have to account for how that affects those who are used. It's a deliberate blindness, a moral emptiness. For morality, happiness, and integrity all rest on an ability to consider others. Altruism is the way to happiness. A rightful morality would never allow you to feel guiltless for causing suffering. And basing your integrity on using others is crushing your ever having integrity.
Karen Horney describes narcissists as "moving against others”, “being unpleasant to others in pursuit of one’s own goals” and  having a “tendency to pursue their own goals regardless of others’ needs.” This is inclusive of all a narcissist's trademarks: contempt, judgment, projection, blame, and an unyielding inability to apologize or be responsible for their own behavior.

I believe interpersonal narcissism thrives in a culture where the larger power, the System, Neoliberalism, has informed how we relate to each other. Rarely do we stop to consider that there are other possibilities than the pursuit of material goods, made possible by companies we are dependent on for paychecks and products. In “The Dream of God”, Borg describes this as “systemic evil. He says, “Systemic evil is an important notion; it refers to the injustice built into the structures of the system itself. Embedded in oppressive and exploitative social structures, systemic evil is a major source...of human suffering.” And systemic evil is basically any structure that allows one or more people to be exploited for another's gain. It's interpersonal abuse, and does not just involve physical abuse. We have to broaden our notions of what abuse is. We, as a culture, tend to only give credence to certain well-worn narratives of abuse, and do not look at how financial, emotional, and mental abuse creates persistent, low-level suffering. In other words, narcissists create trauma victims. Narcissistic abuse can even cause PTSD because of the gaslighting, lies, constant drip-drips of crazymaking, and verbal attacks.
Narcissism is, therefore, in my opinion, a social justice issue. Social justice is about unfair distribution of advantages, and narcissism is all about unfairly securing the upper hand with regard to advantages, personally and professionally. Not only are therapists, workplaces, and courtrooms ill equipped and under educated about this disordered way of being, but our whole culture is sadly mistaken about narcissism. Sure, everyone knows a narcissist at work, or in their family. But no one REALLY cares how this affects  anyone. And no one really knows what to look for.
I know a man who was so abusive, his wife was given a gun permit and told by a judge to move far, far away. She moved, but I could not help but thinking how fucked up that was. Had there been social consequences in place, that man may not have gotten off scot free while his wife had to completely move house out of fear for her life. Legally.
This kind of allowing creates huge cracks for people to fall into. It's legal to be an asshole, or an abuser. Abusers have rights to their children, rights to harass, rights to abuse. They often gain the right to shut you up if you tell the truth about them. They reserve the right to hurt you, take from you, lie about you, and look like a saint while doing it. Your rights to being, to being a human, are summarily dismissed.
Altruism is more possible in a culture that embraces nonviolence as a way to address its problems. Nonviolence naturally calls for having empathy and thinking about the good of the group, and then acting on their behalf. Altruism, expressed as nonviolence, is anti-narcissism. It does not create scapegoats, it is not afraid of using conflict for social renewal, and it is not afraid to deal with the truth. In fact, it does not tolerate lies. 
 There is much to be said about how our culture structurally supports narcissism, but I think the crux of my message today is simply to think for yourself. Narcissists don't think FOR themselves, they think ABOUT themselves. They unquestioningly hold to their entitlement track, their judgments impaired by a compulsion to control rather than to truly think, and in this culture, they get plenty of reinforcement for their incongruent, inconsistent, and dishonest behavior. If you are moving against others, you are moving against yourself, for our social life is paramount to our happiness and good feelings about ourselves. Treating our fellow man with compassion, altruism as a way of life, and questioning structures in order to become more community minded and relationally oriented are all anti-narcissism.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My life in pictures lately

Sometimes no words are needed. Them:
 to me:




Me on the inside:


Me on the outside:


And reading Martin Luther King, Gandhi, others; and learning all about nonviolent protest. Who knew I've actually already been practicing this. 
"Noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is the cooperation with good" -Martin Luther King

"Law never made men a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice." -Henry David Thoreau

"No sane person seeks a world divided between billions of people living in absolute deprivation and a tiny elite guarding their wealth and luxury behind fortress walls. No one rejoices at the prospect of life in a world of collapsing social and ecological systems. Yet we continue to place human civilization and even our species’ survival at risk mainly to allow a few million people to accumulate money beyond any conceivable need. We continue to go boldly where no one wants to go." David Korten, "When Corporations Rule the World"