Three things that I have engaged with or pondered on this week

Over the last month I have been organizing artwork, and have finally had some small changes made in the website. I have expanded the Artwork space and posted samples of various things I have made over the last 15 years or so. Additionally, I have removed the Books and Quotes parts because they reflected what I was reading prior to the creation of the site in 2013, and also, because I have frequently been writing about and referring to books I have been reading in the News area.

I have been tapping and listening to talks at the Tapping World Summit

As one of the speakers mentioned we can potentially carry hundreds and hundreds of hurts and regrets and moments when our bodies momentarily went into fight-flight or freeze mode. But if we keep passing our experiences as we often do unacknowledged and unfelt once we start tapping it will feel overwhelming as so much starts pouring out. Tapping can slowly help us release pent up emotions and create clarity as we slowly feel into and integrate our experiences. Tapping can also help us get to the original wound, the first cut, which when left buried, facilitates the repetition of patterns and dynamics.

I have many personal examples of how unaddressed earlier experience shapes our future, and a few come to my mind right now. One that comes to mind is about speaking in front of the class, another is about a light bulb that had caused me a lot of fretting and worrying.  I”ll chose the light bulb and save the other for a future post. A little while ago I was perched on a stool changing a light bulb when I felt heaviness in my chest and then as I tried to understand why I experienced inner resistance. So, once I got off the stool I tapped on the physical sensations. As the bodily responses died down I remembered an incident from decades ago. I believed I had definitely left that one behind.

It had been an exhausting summer. We had been renovating an old building and had invested all the money we had on the restoration work and the purchase of desks and school material. Everything had to be according to regulations and before we could open the school we had to receive a license from the relevant authorities. Finally, inspection day had arrived.  We had double checked everything, put flowers in vases and were looking forward to checking this item off our list. The inspector seemed to be pleased throughout the tour. Then as he was walking towards the exit he switched on the hallway light, even though it was morning, and the light bulb was dead. Initially, I had thought nothing of it until he announced that this had cost us our license. My arms had felt limp and my toddler in my arms heavier. I couldn’t believe this was happening. He was abusing power and there was nothing I could do least I make matters worse. The license papers did arrive; meanwhile, I had secreted tons of cortisol.

Over and over as we tap or meditate we realise that our body registers all kinds of things and what we push down or out of sight. Carrying around too much stuff from our past has undesirable repercussions for us and others. We need to feel and make sense of our experiences, not only the big T traumas, but also all the other things and then place events in the bigger container of our own live, see the threads, and also, the bigger societal picture. One of the speakers talked about how we always need to bring in all the context and see what else was going on.

I have also been reading a few things by poet David Whyte. Below is a passage I liked on vulnerability:

Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.

The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.

A few things that I have found interesting this week

A. A passage on belonging by poet David Whyte

‘To feel as if you belong is one of the great triumphs of human existence — and especially to sustain a life of belonging and to invite others into that… But it’s interesting to think that … our sense of slight woundedness around not belonging is actually one of our core competencies; that though the crow is just itself and the stone is just itself and the mountain is just itself, and the cloud, and the sky is just itself — we are the one part of creation that knows what it’s like to live in exile, and that the ability to turn your face towards home is one of the great human endeavors and the great human stories.

It’s interesting to think that no matter how far you are from yourself, no matter how exiled you feel from your contribution to the rest of the world or to society — that, as a human being, all you have to do is enumerate exactly the way you don’t feel at home in the world — to say exactly how you don’t belong — and the moment you’ve uttered the exact dimensionality of your exile, you’re already taking the path back to the way, back to the place you should be. You’re already on your way home.

B. The black box of our lives

This week I watched an interesting film, Τέλειοι Ξένοι, directed by Thodoris Atherides on YouTube. It is a remake of the Italian dramedy Perfect Strangers by Paolo Genovese. It’s about a dinner party that goes terribly wrong. During the meal on the night of a moon eclipse seven friends gather to watch the astronomical phenomenon, eat and drink. Under the social pressure they all decide to play a game with their phones. They place them on the table and agree to make all their texts and phone calls public. As skeletons start to come out of closets and as insecurities and secrets start leaking out there seems to be no place to hide or run. Each secret is piled on top of each other threatening to unravel the fabric of their relationships and the evening. Meanwhile, unacknowledged biases, sexism, repressed emotions and snark lurk in every corner. However, with each new revelation an opportunity for more poignant conversations to take place arises.

The film is a commentary on contemporary society and our inability to see the other below appearances. It tackles themes like privacy, deceit and lack of transparency in our communications and relationships and how little we often know the people in our very close circles. It comments on how our phone devices have become the black boxes of our lives. These gadgets are often used in ways not meant for public viewing and they can give someone the keys to our lives: social media accounts, health apps, our daily schedule, e-mails, address book, streaming platforms, very personal or angry text messages..

C. Dan Siegel discusses smart phones and other devices from an interpersonal neurobiology perspective

He writes that ‘the media is filled with concerning comments about the need for curbing how much time is spent interacting with smart phones, tablets, and computers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen a young parent text for blocks with their infant in their arms or been in an elevator full of people who, instead of engaging in the informal conversations that connect us to each other in community, are each on their gadgets, typing furiously away. One thing that emerges from the scientific framework of interpersonal neurobiology that I work in as a psychiatrist and educator is that our self, our mind, is not only a product of our body and its nervous system, including the brain, but it is also a relational process. What this means is that we are not only shaped by what our brain does, but we are created by our relationships. Relationships can be defined by how we share information with one another.

One of the experiences that may arise from texting, for example, is a sense of connection with others, a sense of being seen, and even a sense of defining who we are. We are certainly shaped by our relationships—even through our social media accounts—giving us a sense of not being alone in the world. And even more to the point, these communications reveal how our sense of identity can be created by our connections……………. I have found both with friends and with patients, that the inner mental life becomes lost amidst a bombardment of external information. The Internet can contribute to this surface attention as it often distracts us from going deeper with each other in real time, focusing instead on one-way visual and auditory inputs that have a sense of being never-ending. If we’re not careful, these kinds of surface streams of stimuli can give us a sense of never being done, never being complete, never having accomplished something that is finished……

When our kids were younger, my wife and I decided to try to walk the talk by engaging in what I call reflective dialogues, conversations that focus on the inner nature of our mental lives. This means in our conversations we SIFT our experience by exploring four things that are the life of the mind beneath behavior: Sensations; Images; Feelings; Thoughts.

Dan Siegel suggests:  1. Engage your own “mindsight” circuits. When we SIFT the mind, we engage the “mindsight” circuits that support how we have insight into our own inner lives, and empathy for the inner experience of others. Mindsight is something that can give us a deeper sense of knowing others, and of knowing ourselves…….

2.Turn off the gadget and turn toward each other.  When we engage with others in reflective dialogues, including with friends and family, we are making time to explore the inner life of each person………. That’s a conversation between two people, an interactive experience that goes beneath the surface to illuminate the inner life of the mind.

3.Focus on reflective dialogues with those around you.  What we focus our attention on shapes the brain. Science would support the view that if we can have more reflective dialogues that engage our mindsight circuitry, we’ll have a deeper sense of who we are. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have developed an inner sense of clarity that will make it more likely we won’t be so desperate to respond to that phone call or that text while barreling down the road. That would be a great change for everyone.’ (From https://www.drdansiegel.com/blog/2014/01/10/3-steps-to-disconnecting-from-our-phones-and-reconnecting-with-our-teens/)

We all inherently belong here because we are an inextricable part of any here or any there.

‘We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world’  (Marcel Proust, cited in a Stephen Batchelor)

As I have mentioned I sometimes listen to talks and presentations when I am drawing. Once I have ‘set up’ my drawing  I seem to be able to focus on both activities. If I do miss something it doesn’t really matter and I can always rewind. These two drawings today were created with talks by Brene Brown PhD, in the background, which eventually led me to download her book Braving the Wilderness on my Kindle device. The title felt like home to me. I was also intrigued because if my memory is serving me well, I don’t think I have ever used brave as a verb or gerund. So, the title grabbed my attention. I haven’t finished the book yet, but it is basically about belonging, which does not require we change who we are, but instead to be who we are. It is about authenticity and courage and not about shrinking or changing ourselves to fit in. Brene Brown discusses what it means to truly belong using the results of her qualitative research findings and her own experiences. She suggests that true belonging asks of us to belong to ourselves and to be able to find sacredness both in being part of a community and standing alone and it is a practice that requires courage, integrity and authenticity. To find our way back home to ourselves we need to walk through or rather brave the wilderness. She writes: “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

Brene Brown also uses BRAVING as an acronym for defining and developing trust filled relationships in all contexts. She has often talked about trust as a marble jar. We talk about hard things and we share our soul stories to people who have over time gained their trust marbles and have proved trustworthy. In a nutshell, B stands for boundaries. R stands for reliability. I can only trust you if you do what you say you’re going to do and you do what you say you’re going to do over and over and over again. A is for accountability, which involves owning mistakes and apologizing or making amends. V is for vault, which means that we acknowledge confidentiality and you will hold in confidence what I share with you and I will do the same with what you share with me. She also uses an interesting term common enemy intimacy because intimacy is built on hating the same person or people, but that’s not real trust. Common enemy type intimacy supports divisiveness  both at a familial, circle of friends or work level and at a large societal level.I is for integrity, which she defines as choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy, and practicing our values, N stands for non-judgment, which means that I can fall apart, ask for help, and be in struggle without being judged by you. Likewise you can fall apart, and be in struggle, and ask for help without being judged by me. So, when there is real trust help is reciprocal and non-judgmental. Finally, G is for generosity and this is about first making a generous assumption about others’ words, intentions, behaviours and then checking it out before assuming the worst