Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Primal Wound

¡Hola! Everybody…
I have a virtual tour set up for you today, but I wasn’t able to finish it. I will enjoying my beloved city this coming week and will post pictures along with background in the coming days. Mostly because… my city is better, more beautiful, more vibrant, more cosmopolitan, and more alive than yours…

Most of what I write comes from my life. Yes, some of it is from reading and scholarship but the vast majority of what I write comes from my experiences. Call it applied philosophy/ psychology, call it whatever you want. Just know this is from me.

I’m rushing to get out the door, hit the beach and a few other places, so I’m re-posting the following.

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“The heart is itself its own medicine. The heart all its own wounds heals.”
-- Hazrat Inayat Khan

You are loved… period.

Just as you are, right now, this very moment, you are perfectly lovable. In fact, you are love itself.

When I exhort you not to complain, I’m actually trying to steer your gaze to that which you are most committed. Make a list of your major complaints over the span of several days, and in that list, you will find a pattern that encompasses what you are most committed to in life. However, some people mistake my issue with complaints. Most people assume I’m asking them to disassociate from their complaints and that is exactly what I’m trying to tell you not to do. What I am asking is that you look deep into your complaints, maybe even stop the habit of complaining for one day.

One fawkin’ day!

Dissociation, like all other defense mechanisms, serves an important function. It’s our mind’s way of saying no to and turning away from your pain, your need for love, and your anger about not getting enough of it. It’s also a way of turning away from your body, where these feelings reside. Sometimes, especially as children, we need this in order to protect our psyches. It is one of the most effective of all defense strategies in a child’s arsenal.

However, it has a major drawback: it shuts you off from access to two main areas of your body. It shuts you off from the vital center in the belly – the source of desire, Eros, vital power, and instinctual understanding – and it shuts you off from your heart center – where you respond to love and feel things most deeply.

In protecting ourselves from the feeling of being unloved, we block the passages through which love flows through the body and we deprive ourselves of the very sustenance needed for our life to flourish. We cut ourselves off from our connection to life itself.

This leaves us in a strange place – a painful space. On the one hand, we all hunger for love – we cannot help that, it’s how we’re wired. At the same time, however, we also avoid it and refuse to open to it because we don’t trust in it.

This is what one some psychologists call the wound of the heart, or the primal wound. This whole pattern – not knowing we’re loved as we are, then numbing our heart to ward off the pain and in the process shutting down the pathways through which love can flow – this is the wound of the heart. Although this wound has its origin in our childhood conditioning, it becomes fixated and grows into a larger spiritual problem: the disconnect from the loving openness that is our nature.

It’s a universal wound that shows up in the body as emptiness, anxiety, trauma, or depression. In relationships, it manifests itself as the feeling being unloved, with all the insecurity, guardedness, mistrust, and resentment that feeling entails, as well as all the relationship problems that flow from there.

No matter how powerfully we fall in love with someone, we rarely dare to soar above our fear and distrust for very long. It seems that we’ve internalized the story of Daedalus, who perished when he flew too close to the sun. Indeed, the more brightly another person lights us up, the more it activates our wound and brings it to the foreground. Sure enough, as soon as conflict and disappointment arise, the old insecurities emerge from the darkness. The Mini Me pops up whispering, “You see, you’re not really loved at all.”

I believe all the beauty and horrors of the world originate from the same root: the presence or absence of love. Internalizing the feeling of not being loved (or lovable) is the only wound there is. It makes cripples of us, shriveling us in the process. This is why I would say that, apart from the few biochemical imbalances and neurological disorders, the DSM (the diagnostic manual for psychological afflictions) should begin thus:

Contained within these pages are descriptions of all the wretched ways people feel and behave when they do not feel they are loved.

When people do not know they are loved, a cold black hole forms in the psyche, where the beliefs of personal insignificance, unimportance, lack of beauty and goodness have their root. This icy tundra of fear is what causes the emotional storms that rage within us and assault our relationships.

The only way we can eradicate this cross-generational plague of feeling unloved is by healing this wound. Many religions and spiritual traditions have understood the importance of love in eradicating alienation from love. They admonish us to love more, to give more generously. The way to love, they seem to say, is to love first. This truth is, of course, simple yet profound, but there is another truth just as profound: we cannot give what we cannot receive.

I think it was in an Y360 blast where I first saw it, but the quote from the poet Rilke is eye opening here: “to love is to cast light,” he writes, while “to be loved means to be ablaze.” The question begging to be asked here is how can we cast light if we are not ablaze? It follows then that the key to loving is to become more receptive to being loved, to let it all in. Even if we believe that God is love, such a belief will have little effect if we are shut down or obstructed, preventing Great Love from flowing freely.

Maybe what we need is a teaching that helps us focus on our capacity to receive love and how to develop that capacity. Perhaps such a teaching would integrate a psychology as well as a spiritual component. Perhaps such a teaching would include concrete, experiential exercises aimed at developing our capacity to accept love. Because I know this much, it is often scarier to allow ourselves to be loved than to love.

May you find, through knowing that you are held in love, the boundless source of joy within yourself and share it with the world around us. May you realize your true nature as a blissful, radiant love, and that you are truly loved.



Golden Lotus

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