“In spiritual bypassing, descending to any noticeable degree into what is troubling or eating at us is usually held to be all but synonymous with failing or sinking, being merely a sign of regression – unless of course we lower ourselves just enough to help uplift those who are already down below (which is not much more than a Pollyannaish slumming of the “higher” leaving a few Christmas loaves for the “lower”).
But having to stay “up” cuts us off from our roots, our history, our ground. Having to stay “up” dilutes and impoverishes us, leaving us to feed mostly on recycled spiritual clichés and other heady souvenirs of secondhand living. Up, up, and away we float to avoid our pain and developmental challenges, stuffing ourselves with spiritual knowledge – confusing information with transformation – while our body pays the price of being only superficially lived at best. Thus we forget that “down” is not “up” having a bad day, but rather where seeds flourish and roots grow deep.” – Robert Augustus Masters, PhD – “Spiritual Bypassing – When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters”
Kate was a bright, outspoken, beautiful entrepreneur, wife and mother whose short, natural blond hair and emerald-green eyes gave her a bright luminosity that could be spotted in a crowd. Kate owned a successful retail business where I was going to rent space and practice from during my first Canadian days. Before signing a contract, she wanted to experience my work, which, at the time, mainly consisted in the hands-on transmission of Reiki healing energy. We were less than ten minutes through the session, when Kate’s chin started trembling, and she fought back tears. “What’s going on, Kate?” I asked. “I don’t know why, but a memory came to my mind….something I haven’t thought of in a while” she said, and started to cry. She remembered how she was sexually assaulted when she was a child – something she never told anyone before. Her sister had gone through the same experience, but the two of them never spoke about those events. I encouraged her to cry, breathe and feel that emotional pain, to explore and bring its expression to completion. The unfinished business of the childhood trauma had been silently showing up in her marriage, and touching upon a long repressed emotion was a necessary step in her emotional liberation and healing. The soothing, relaxing part of the Reiki session came after Kate had touched upon, and integrated the old painful emotions. The safe and powerful searchlight of the Reiki energy brought up the old scars into awareness, making it possible for Kate to fully feel that which would have been too intense and overwhelming for her to feel as a child, and had remained only partially expressed in her psyche, energy field and the memory of her cells.
A child who experiences painful or traumatic events, often disassociates from his or her own body in a self-defense mechanism that we are all wired with for survival. The unexpressed pain is shoved and encapsulated in the dark corners of the unconscious mind, getting a life of its own while maintaining the age of the child, acting out even after thirty or forty or fifty years in adults who cannot understand why, in spite of high intelligence, upbringing and education, there are relationship instances when they feel and behave like children: hurt, insecure, emotional.
The young part of the psyche which has not been integrated within the adult remains hidden and unseen until the adult flashes a searchlight into it through therapy, and history is briefly revisited and touched upon not to linger forever in it, but to liberate the “kid from the basement” and bring her back home. The process can be intense but brief, which is preferable to a slow, simmering pain that drags along for years, like the story of the “compassionate” man who slowly cut the dog’s tail, inch by inch, to “spare him from suffering”. Touching upon a pain from the past can be as sharp and intense as surgery into our own psyche, and an integrative way to touch upon this pain – body movement, with breath and narrative – shortens its processing time to as little as a few short minutes, depending on the age, nature and intensity of the pain. Given a choice, what would you have: another thirty years of slow, simmering, dull pain in the background of your mind, or fifteen minutes of intense emotional pain, followed by peace and a light feeling?
Our history does shape us into who we are today, and nobody can undo the events and deeds done to us by others, but the emotional charges associated to those events can change and be lifted until we remember the story of what happened, but we are emotionally free from it, from our past, and we can now transcend it. As dangerously limiting as avoiding the past is to our psychological well being, lingering in the past hurts and crying the same tears day after day, year after year is equally limiting. Just as there is a time to touch upon an emotion from the past, there is a time to let go of it and move on. Letting go cannot occur before having touched upon the past, but is the logical and necessary step in healing and developing our psyche.
Emily was a slight young woman who was always tastefully dressed, with shoulder length highlighted blonde hair, and a feminine, approachable yet regal demeanor. Emily’s distress was around men: “They cheat on me, they leave me” she would say with tearful eyes, and then she’d add, nose in a Kleenex: “I just want to be loved, I want to have a family” She was so upset that sometimes she’d bring her own box of Kleenex to our sessions, knowing she’d go through many of them.
Flashing a flashlight in her unconscious mind, Emily was able to access memories so distressful from the past, that it took a few good sessions to touch upon the painful feelings that arose from those memories, before it was time to let go. There was an extent of letting go with each session, each session having a complete cycle about it, making sure that Emily would go home each time lighter than when she arrived. It took a few months of work before she could notice significant changes in her objective life, when a man she liked proposed to her, and she became his wife, and later, a mommy.
You can think, if you wish, of the “touching and letting go” process as being somewhat similar to the technique of contracting and relaxing the body for managing stress: when we contract, we touch upon our inner tensions; when we relax, we teach our body-minds what it is like to be calm and serene. It is a new learning, and with such tense-and-relax, or touch-and-let go practice, in time we notice both the intensity and the frequency of our emotions change. Calm serenity cannot be achieved through affirmations alone, and certainly not through either avoiding the past, or getting stuck in it. Genuine peace, as the opposite of suffering, requires our willingness to experience and express the full spectrum of our dualistic human nature with ease, flow, and elegance.
Tana Saler © All rights reserved to the author
May 9, 2012