Sunday, February 12, 2017

How To Be Completely Perfect in Ten Easy Steps

Step one:
Stop falling for headlines like that.
There is a whole internet out there that knows exactly what you need to be doing and when. There is always a list of ways you're totally messing up your kids, your life, your job, your relationships, and your exercise routine. There are a million ways to improve yourself.
I keep wondering if the self-help movement of the eighties and nineties set us up for the list-of-advice movement of today.
Which means there is an instant stratification: the experts who know what you are supposed to do with your life and you, who are most certainly mucking things up because you know nothing. It is as if we seek to be shamed.
Besides the fact that perfection is an illusion, a concept sold to us by corporations who define what is "perfect", there is, in the question, a longing to be something other than we are.
What if we simply learned to be human? To seek for answers inside of ourselves? To be fully ourselves lit up with kindness and grace? To walk with intuition?
There are many many advantages to having many voices represented in this wide world, and that is the blessing of the internet. Our awareness is raised, we have all this information at our disposal, it is easy to Google.
Lately I've been reading a lot about dissociation. Dissociation is a word most frequently used with those with PTSD. ISSTD begins its discussion of dissociation this way:
"Dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other. Dissociated experiences are not integrated into the usual sense of self, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness (Anderson & Alexander, 1996; Frey, 2001; International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 2002; Maldonado, Butler, & Spiegel, 2002; Pascuzzi & Weber, 1997; Rauschenberger & Lynn, 1995; Simeon et al., 2001; Spiegel & CardeƱa, 1991; Steinberg et al., 1990, 1993). In severe forms of dissociation, disconnection occurs in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception. For example, someone may think about an event that was tremendously upsetting yet have no feelings about it. Clinically, this is termed emotional numbing, one of the hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder. Dissociation is a psychological process commonly found in persons seeking mental health treatment (Maldonado et al., 2002)."

Dissociation basically takes one away from's a numbing to feelings. I have called it by different names: self-betrayal, anesthetic. Many things can be used to numb: food, sex, shopping, video games, movies, our phones....oh,our phones. When we are not huddled over our phones, what are  we doing? The average person checks their phone over a hundred times daily. Alcohol, drugs, anything that causes us to anxiously scan for something else so we can avoid our feelings, ourselves.
Maybe that is why there are so many articles on what you should be doing-lists of what you do not know and how you're messing up. We have dissociated from ourselves and from each other. We are afraid of bearing each other's griefs, and fearful of being swallowed up by our own. So it is in a pat answer we find direction, in platitudes a path far from grief.
The antidote for dissociation, I'm convinced, is devotion. Devotion to a practice of meditation, therapy, yoga, and a life lived in service to Love. Devotion to God, Goddess, or both as is the case with me. Devotion to not running away from yourself. 
I have struggled with dissociation mightily. I've run away from myself straight into the arms of unavailable men, all the better for me to remain unavailable myself. Even my beloved therapist had to chastise me: "Stop dating men who would be potential clients." Dissociation often runs my house, my relationships. Sometimes I relish loneliness and alone time like it is lush dessert....the sensual hum of absence, the delicious darkness of hermitage. I'm better at catching it now...sometimes I wake up and say, oh, I am dissociated...there you are, calm numbness...what am I avoiding today? What do I need to face with courage?
No one learns to re-associate in loneliness. No one learns to find their feelings through avoiding other people.
I have been a voracious consumer of online lists. When a handful of therapists during a time I was in denial-another form of dissociation-all, independent of one another, pointed me to NPD as an explanation for some people's behavior, I could not believe it. I was too caught up in shaming and blaming myself, based on how other people, abusive people, had characterized me. I hungrily read everything I could in every attempt to wake up and really see what was going on and how narcissism in close others I loved had affected my life. The DSM list of traits seemed in itself a pat answer, with no appreciation for the painful nuances. And of course, many "lists" had all the answers for how you are supposed to heal and what you are supposed to do. I needed that initial direction and information to come out of the darkness of denial, but at some point I had to stop and just trust myself. At the time, I really didn't know what I didn't know.
At the center of each of us is a core that is capable of great empathy, kindness, love, and compassion. Perhaps mindfulness is removing barriers to our own compassion and kindness instead of heaping on more information and taking in one more opinion. Or giving one more judgment and one more criticism in an attempt to "reform" someone else. We know what happened to us. We understand more than we give ourselves credit for. We don't need someone to define us, to tell us who we are. We can have our longings and desires for spirit met other ways. But this is our individual work. 
The dissociation is there because of suffering-suffering experienced, suffering caused, investing in your own blind spots. Feeling grief and sadness for the loss of friends, for pain you've caused in yourself or others, for so many an act of great courage. Just feeling is courage. I would say it is an act of anarchy, since this world isn't going to celebrate your spiritual growth and will try to block it. 
Do it anyway. Personally, I don't have it figured out. But I'm determined to keep waking up, to keep learning love, to keep going to the grief and feeling it with all my heart. 
Life is too short to not heal.

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

― Wendell Berry

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