As children we discover that behaving in certain ways helps us to maintain connection with the people we depend upon. Emphasis of some behaviours and the disowning of others, reduces the chances of repeating circumstances where we experience pain, suffering or separation.
We identify with strategic ways of being that somehow seem to serve us, and yet there is a catch, because interestingly, later these same strategies bring about exactly the kind of situations that they were originally designed to avoid!
From one perspective it seems like a cruel cosmic joke. For example, a person identified with taking care of the needs of others, attracts people who thrive on being taken care of, or a person identified with doing, attracts others who carry the contrasting energy of being.
Opposites both attract, and repel, and when two polarised worlds collide without compromise then this leads to relational dynamics that seem to reinforce the motivation of their respective actors to maintain their opposite positions.
We call these attractions judgements and a judgement can be either positive or negative, aimed at ourselves (inner critic / self-aggrandising) or aimed at others.
We have all adopted strategies during our development that at some point were a best effort to get some basic needs met. The perpetuation of these strategies is aimed at helping us to avoid feeling our vulnerability, and spares us a reminder of some echo of a past experience of discomfort, or of still open wounds.
However, as the years pass and we move (hopefully) towards our greater independence, the universe it seems is committed to bringing us home to more of our-selves. In the absence of a willingness to embrace our wholeness, instead we meet ourselves through the things and those people that we attract and are attracted towards instead. I mean attracted to in the broadest sense, including those behaviours that preoccupy us with the negative repulsion that we feel towards them, as much as those we fall head over heels in love with!
A statement like “I disowned that behaviour for a good reason”, makes a lot of sense relative to certain contexts in our lives. We don’t wish to behave like those who we saw suffering as a consequence of their strategies, nor sometimes to become like those who we experienced as contributing in some way towards our own or another’s suffering.
However, there is a problem with this cut and chop method of psychic amputation and adaptation. Our personal opinion of what constitutes acceptable behaviour falls far short of some universally definitive guidebook of values and good practice for determining what should and should not be tolerated.
The full palate of human expression encompasses a very broad spectrum. Different people opt for entirely opposite points of view, and in the absence of concluding that some people are simply wrong and others all right, which of course, we have all done on at least one occasion, then we are instead invited to assume a wider point of view!
Consider that this dualistic conundrum contains within it the springboard for a transformation of consciousness. What if the dualistic mindscape is encapsulated within a broader dimension of experience? What if there is a positive essence at the heart of all expressions of behaviour and that we are constantly being invited to expand our perspective to embrace a more triune (at least) world view?
One argument suggests that our perspective has simply become distorted and if only we re-orientate our worldview, then all will be fine. It’s just a case of reading the right books, or taking the right course, or doing the right coaching. I prefer to take the position that our perspective is limited and to leave it at that. Whether this has always been the case or not is immaterial in arriving at the conclusion that it’s only through an evolution of consciousness that we can come to realise the constraining nature of an earlier, less expanded world view!
At the heart of most human concern and endeavour lays a wish to feel well and to have needs met. We’re all vulnerable, to – illness – love - change - being touched by a glorious sunrise – loss - death! In light of this fact, it;s a little curious that there is a widespread cultural resistance to feeling vulnerable.
Often the word vulnerable is used in association with feelings of pain, weakness, trauma, suffering. Yet in essence there is no valuative position to be taken regarding the topic. That I can be touched by your presence or action, or that I can feel you deeply, or express my outrage intimately, these are gifts that require me to be connected to vulnerability if I am to enjoy them.
Whilst we are vulnerable to being impacted and touched, on the flip side we are also potent creators with the capacity to cause effect. We are power-full and as we grow towards adulthood we increasingly cause impact, touch and change things.
Why is it, if these inseparable partners of vulnerability and power are simply two sides of the same coin, that there is a cultural bias towards celebrating power and towards disowning vulnerability?
Could it be that those that came before us inherited a generalised understanding of vulnerability, ball parking it as some kind of weakness associated with the likelihood of painful or frightening experiences? Did our predecessors base their action on the premise that being vulnerable is really not recommended, and that some experiences are just better avoided or at least, forgotten?
In terms of our evolutionary development, such a strategy makes sense when the primary concern is that core needs for survival, nourishment and shelter will not be met. In an environment where situations like being eaten by lions, killed by each other, or being overcome by mysterious illnesses is a likely daily potential, then of course, we want to be focused on acting in ways that increase the likelihood for our survival. But for those human beings who are fortunate enough to be living their lives in environments where such risks are less likely, why is it that vulnerability is often still seen as the least favoured commodity to be connected to as we grow towards adulthood?
Parents (and I am one), influence their children by example, modelling preferred ways of being and further instilling values and rules by the injunctions they impose. Such endeavours to socialise and condition can be obvious and explicit, yet also subtle and implicit. The bottom line message, “follow these rules and strategies and I, and perhaps you, (but not necessarily) will feel fine!”
If a young child experiences the people around them remaining connected and centred as they navigate the variety of emotional states and expressions of needs arising on a daily basis, then they’ll internalise such flexibility into their own systems. Such easy absorption is by design and helps a child to grow and adapt to the demands of an ever changing environment, except that the child will internalise just about any strategy they’re exposed to.
This phenomena of internalising the behaviour of others, leads to what can be termed the introjected parent. We literally internalise the strategies of those around us, and the beliefs and rules that go with them.
This developmental phase sustains until a level of cognition is reached that is adequate to determine that needs may be better served by an alternative means. At this point, if a child recognises that strategies of those around them result in core needs being unmet, then they may simply polarise and begin to express opposite behaviours instead.
Such is the intelligence of a system to right itself and to become whole that our children literally begin to express that which has been disowned. Unfortunately, in the absence of appreciating this fact and of looking at how to integrate wisdom emerging through a child into the wider family system, then he or she may be persecuted in some way for expressing these unfamiliar traits, inevitably leading to experiences of disconnection and feelings of pain, fear and sorrow. Alternatively children are championed and showered with positive projections that reinforce identification with these ways of being and that implicitly preclude an alternative.
By disowning vulnerability due to an inherited belief that to experience this exquisite openness to life will be to risk harm, we pass the vulnerable baby around, so to speak, to be lived out by our children, or partners, colleagues, enemies, friends. So a child can serve as a portal for disowned energies to enter the system, in which case she or he is also met by reactivity from others that either enforces an impossibly high standard, or that is critical. Either way this triggers connection with vulnerability.
The less than fortunate benefactor of such a challenging inheritance is usually caught in a sticky double bind! On the one hand she or he seeks to implement the vulnerability avoiding behaviour learned from those around them, or to impliment the opposite behaviours adopted in polarity to those. Whilst on the other hand, these very behaviours lead to the likelihood of feeling more vulnerable. The resulting experience is at best very confusing and at worst, impossible to integrate. The messages contradict. “You have the vulnerability”, and at the same time, “don’t dare be vulnerable”!
I can share a clear example based on my own story.
As a boy I identified with pleasing and taking care of others. As long as I behaved in this way within my family environment then I stood a good chance of keeping connection and being loved - feeling safe - welcomed - nourished.
However, there was a price because in order to uphold this positive impression, I disowned the parts of me that were aligned with putting myself first, of feeling vulnerability and of knowing what my needs were. This disowning was reinforced by the fact that if I behaved in such self-centric ways then I would regularly receive the injunction that I was selfish and inconsiderate.
The withdrawal of connection in these moments encouraging me to push down my own needs and the vulnerability that lay beneath them, into the shadows of my unconscious. I literally disowned these parts of myself. Then the only available relationship I could have to such ways of being was at the fringes of my consciousness and in the selfish, insensitive people I saw around me, who by contrast helped me to further identify with my sense of being a better self!
Later on, when I'd left the environment where this strategy had served me, I found that I began to attract more and more people who held the opposite ways of being. It’s as if we had a contract. I'll give and you receive! I'll sacrifice and you take!
Simply put, I drew people into my field of experience whose survival strategy (in the context of giving and receiving) was in polarity to mine. People for whom the opposite way of behaving proved the most effective route to getting their early needs met.
So in one respect we were each other’s teacher! Only I couldn't embrace what they held for me because the very resonance of their expression of behaviour triggered memories of my wounds associated with the moments when I'd expressed the same.
Therefore, in the absence of understanding that together we represented some kind of systemic whole, instead we would both keep trying to transform the other into what we'd become. And whilst it may often begin "in love", and from a platform of well meaning, such endeavours usually end in disappointment, judgement and polarisation – at some point at least.
The same was true for me, at least until I began to realise that I'd disowned a significant part of my inner family of resources! I discovered that whilst I was attracting expressions of behaviour into my life that I had no intention of replicating, still, at the essence of each of these expressions was a quality, perspective, way of engaging with the world, that was positive and of essential value to me in my life.
I was relieved to realise that I need not exercise some distorted expression of these opposites.
I faced the fact that by having disowned these parts in the past it meant that in the moments when my usual strategies failed, there was a likelihood that some demonic monsters (the disowned and now distorted selves) would emerge from the closet of my unconscious. Hungry and ready to devour something, even if discretely by way of an inner critic that feasted on my sense of self-worth.
We hear the stories! “He was such a quiet, and pleasant young man, I just cannot believe that he burned down the whole street that day!” Or “generally she’s so sensitive and composed, I couldn’t believe it when I saw her at the office party after a few glasses of wine! Shocking!”
We have our own stories!
I relaxed into the fact that by getting to know and appreciate some of my well-meaning inner selves, who despite the best of intentions were inadequate to meet all of my needs, I naturally began to connect more consciously with the vulnerability that they so faithfully sought to protect.
Pleasing others, or oneself, or working hard, or relaxing, or choosing a spiritual path, or embracing and celebrating physicality and instinctual energy, or being more introvert, or extrovert, adaptable or fixed, or any other myriad of polarised ways of being, all have their essential value. However, when we identify into one or other position in an endeavour to avoid experiencing vulnerability, then we begin to lose connection with our deeper self, and reduce the potential of connecting in life serving ways with others.
It’s akin to hearing a baby crying and implementing every possible strategy towards changing their behaviour, except for simply picking up the baby, breathing with them as they cry and giving them the experience of being met by someone who can fully embrace the moment and remain connected and centred.
The primary parts we identify with go to elaborate lengths in their endeavour to protect this child – build a fortress around him – silence her – distract him – shame her – heal him – feed her – get someone else to look after him – kill her even! Every conceivable strategy, except to simply accept and embrace!
When we consciously embrace the inner child, the faithful old guard can relax. Those parts of us whose expression we previously associated with resulting in some kind of painful experience, become less of a threat and the forces that stood in the way of their expression loosen resistance. We begin to discover that we’ve been psychologically standing on one leg and that there is now a possibility to try out the other one too!
As we integrate parts that we’d previously disowned, so we attract less the people who carry the distorted expression of these essentially life serving qualities. I needn’t attract selfish, lazy, ignorant or insensitive behaviour, when I’ve integrated self-care, being, not knowing and impersonal energy into my life.
At the energetic level it like mathematics because there is an inevitability to the way in which energy dances and that polarised parts interact with each other. This is true at every level, systemically, interpersonally and intra-psychically.
Realising this, we discover an interpretive lens, like a prism, that when looked through it, it reveals a multi-dimensional perspective for viewing life and for understanding everything there is to know about human experience within the dualistic matrix. We realise why attractions and judgements arise. We discover how life is constantly bringing to us that which we've disowned. We understand that all relationships have the potential to serve as a teacher, guiding us home to ourselves.
And like the Wizard of Oz who turned out to be a banker with levers and a glamorised reputation that concealed an incongruent, pathetic character seeking to deceive his audience, so we start to see the deeper mechanisms of the social machine. It is revealed how varying levels of appreciation for this predictable science of duality can be utilised to manipulate and engineer individuals and social groups in ways that sustain polarisation within and between people.
Understanding this underlying energy field and how it functions at the level of duality can help us to appreciate what is necessary in order to transform our current predicaments, both personally and collectively.
As one example, we can appreciate practically what is necessary in order to alleviate the horrid burden of distorted power that a so called one percent faithfully carry on behalf of a disempowered majority. For the majority it is easier to demonise and blame this minority group than to recognise that a large part of accountability for this phenomena sustaining is that this majority continue to collude with their own perpetual infantilism and identification with victimhood. Yes, I mean all of us, at least some of the time!
Petitioning powers that shouldn’t be, is no solution. We simply project more power onto those already overburdened individuals who mirror and live out the potential to influence and to cause effect. To take the courageous step to listen in to our vulnerability, acknowledge what is and what is not acceptable to us, and to unite with others in standing for that which is life serving, and therefore self-serving but perhaps in more sustainable ways, is the route towards a more lasting liberation.
To elaborate in the context of this last example: it’s as if there is 100 pieces of power and 100 pieces of vulnerability and they are 2 sides of the same coin of totality. If one disowns one side of a polarity then another more inclined to express the opposite will do so and will live it out instead! And because we each evolve different strategies for getting our basic needs met, so it will always be that different people will be attracted towards each other and will polarise, until that is, a wider majority of us understand what is actually going on. For then we can begin to have real choice, rather than acting out of our adaptations.
Because this dance of selves within the dualistic domain has been the way of people in the world for some long time, so then the system has increasingly evolved to a point where now a small percentage of the population hold power on behalf of the many.
Such a phenomena is fractal and can be seen on the intra-psychic level too. I mean in the interior of our psyches. We see how the scope of consciousness of human beings often narrows through the developmental process, the specific path taken being influenced by cultural and familial norms and imperatives. A generification takes place where people become ever more rule bound and increasingly the diversity of expression is diminished, influenced through fear of some horrid consequence... death, abandonment / madness / pain / chaos... etc
The external manifestation reflects this inner state. Look around and you’ll see the adaptation of rule bound cultures, perpetuated across generations and then polarising one with another. The outer world is a mirror inviting us to awaken to the narrow scope of our expression, and to the limited perspective that we’ve identified with.
We might even see a powerful force that from a particular perspective appears to aspire to control everything. Like a cancer that devours its host. Yet most cancers only thrive in a system that has gone anaerobic and becomes acidic. A system where the flow of life ceases to penetrate the deeper recesses of the physical being because of exposure to imbalance throughout the physical, emotional, psychological and environmental domains. A self-perpetuating degeneration, if left unaddressed.
This almost mechanistic entity that threatens our very existence has become demonic and reflects a distorted expression of that which in essence is simply our collective power and will to create and to cause effect. This externalised imbalance reflects the internal state of many a person’s inner psyche!
Bound by fear we might police ourselves with an unreasonable inner critic, or disown this in favour of a vicious judge that condemns others as being wrong instead, because it’s just too painful to keep feeling so bad! Nourishing ourselves on a feast of righteousness, some poor substitute for a past that lacked adequate, loving, human contact and that initiated our rejecting half of ourselves to begin with.
And beneath this critical, righteous dance, people are simply fleeing their vulnerability. Exercising elaborate methods of denial to avoid somehow the child inside that feels everything without limitation and simply longs to be held.
The whole system becomes hardwired in unconsciousness to avoid feeling so deeply. It’s a tragedy because actually we are tailor made to embrace every experience we ever have. It’s simply the case that those who came before us believed the story of those who came before them! A story suggesting that some parts of our humanity are just plain wrong, and some experiences are simply beyond our capacity to embrace and therefore they should be eliminated.
Such convincing myths justify our perpetuation of self-rejection and in the absence of an awareness of the psychic prison we find ourselves in, we will remain forever ensnared in duality.
By intentionally embracing vulnerability (ours and others) in consciousness, and by learning to re-parent ourselves in ways that may have been inadequately modelled to us when needed, so we can nurture a deeper connect with ourselves.
We need not remain forever locked into a worldview of right and wrong, this or that thinking. We can reclaim our potency as creators and as unique expressions of loves longing for itself.
We have the option to free ourselves from a life of perpetual victimization, or of habitually persecuting or rescuing others. In so doing we also energise the potential for others to free themselves of the burden of living out distorted expressions of whatever parts of our-selves we’d previously rejected.
We contribute towards manifesting a life welcoming resonance that serves a greater likelihood for others to awaken to their own outworn strategic identifications so that they too may engage in a process of reintegration, claiming back for themselves whatever aspects have been unwittingly rejected in some earlier moment of being.
And for clarities sake, when I say power, I simply mean the capacity to cause effect – potent, creative action.
And vulnerability, the capacity to be affected – a state of exquisite openness to life - to being touched, to connect and to receive.