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power Tag

Shelter from the Storm

Storms wreak havoc, flattening the white picket fences of our suburban lives. They unbolt the fury of our suppressed emotions, galvanise us into acts of heroism, catapult us out of our inertia and distil our values. They  photoshop the Kodachrome into uncompromising black and white. They test our faith. Challenge our belief that everything that happens “to us” in our lives is for our Highest Good. The Titanic storm that loosed its fury over the East Coast of America this week is a metaphor for the tumultuous storms that sweep through the crowded subways of our psyches. When all around us is falling apart we can either tug at the rip cord, parachute into unmapped territory or seek shelter from the storm within the austere bunkers of our isolation.

Hope Springs is Hollywood’s rather awkward attempt at portraying the frozen despair of a couple locked in an icy tundra. They live in a barren landscape where there is no connection, no intimacy – a stuckness. Like so many couples, they are unable to find a way through to connect with one another physically, emotionally – or honestly. This being Hollywood, the movie must have a happy ending and upbeat music lest it all becomes too poignant and painful, but it is a small glimpse into the winter storms that blanket so many relationships with great sheets of ice.

Every living creation has a life spark, an energy field of power. In our relationships, we so often rattle like tumbleweeds across the desert storms that rage for years: afraid to ask for what we long for, lest we are disappointed.  Terrified to step into our authentic power, because it feels safer to stay small and infantile and allow our partner to carry the power for us. Reluctant to examine with gentle hearts – what do I really need to be happy? What do I truly value?

Every human relationship has changing weather patterns that display subtle shifts of power. In families, in offices, in friendships, in the intimacy of our marriage beds, dark clouds gather as we flex our muscles of will, control, or subversion. Like Love, Power is a paradox. Beneath the veneer of the dominating husband and the submissive wife, or vice versa, power is inverted. Often it is the soft-spoken Victim that holds the sword of ultimate power. The carer that swabs the oozing wounds or lifts skeletal bodies from the wheel chair, that has supreme sovereignty. Many of us stay in powerless roles. We may implode into a dank depression. We may literally become immobilised with an illness that wastes our flesh, rendering us as little children once more. Our power haemorrhages in angry tantrums. It seeps out in subversive acts of sabotage. It weeps in the chill of our numbness, our withdrawal, as we wriggle, like worms impaled upon a savage fish hook in our attempts to avoid our own greatness.

Many women channel their anger or their desire into subversive, subterranean canals where it trickles silently for years in the darkness. It may erupt in dreams that bring images of ferocious violence or forbidden sex. It may speak through the symptoms of dis-ease in our bodies. Or it may be released when our partner finds another lover, granting our unconscious yearning for liberation from the shackles of a marriage in name only. When we identify with the Victim archetype, we may become addicted to the turbulence of frequent storms in our lives as a catalyst for the release of pent up pain that festers. Our barbed wire defences keep us separate, divided, from our true self and from the intimate connections we crave.

Our soul is the repository for our authentic power – our vibrant certainty, our tenacity, our effectiveness. If we can pause in the epicentre of our storms of anger. If we are silent in the nuclear fallout of the arguments that blind us to the innocence of our tormentor. If we can gently examine our sympathy-inducing passivity and acknowledge our dependence upon other’s approval, our fear of personal power, our  mistrust in our own strength… if we can speak of our fears, our resistance, our longings, our insecurities… Authentic power may mean acceptance. It may mean faith. It may mean that we stop apologising for who we are.  It may mean that we look directly at ourselves and begin cutting away at the pastiche of false selves that superimpose on the masterpiece beneath.

I love this quotation by Neale Donald Walsh: “Sculptors have to look at the block and begin cutting parts of it away before their vision emerges in the marble. Look directly at the block if you want to create the art”.

So from beneath the rubble of our lives, we must courageously retrieve the blocks of marble, and with patience and reverence, stop and look directly at the indomitable soul that lives in the silent centre of our being.

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

The Tempest William Shakespeare.

Image from http://abiggerworldyet.wordpress.com

Bob Dylan gives us Shelter from the Storm.

 

 

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Hometown Glory

“My sister’s not talking to me again,” lamented Maggie, who comes from a family that handles “hot potato” issues by abrupt withdrawal, rigidly polarized role-playing, vast, frozen lakes of silence. Behind closed doors, shuttered windows, or on the altar of talk shows we enact archetypal patterns. For most of us, though, family bonds flourish in adversity, survive ruptures, reincarnate in the comfort of shared history and the cohesion of blood ties. For others, feuds fester for generations; anger poisons the food at the dinner table.

 As we grow into adulthood, it is within our family relationships that we are challenged to set the bar high for our personal growth. Our interactions with our parents and siblings ask that we draw from our creative Higher Self to break the cycle of habitual role playing, to short circuit destructive behaviour. We may need to be counterintuitive to breach the walls of a heavily guarded family secret. To ask questions that inspire thought and heart connection, rather than ignite reactivity. To validate and empathise rather than judge or blame. To choose not to react to behaviour that baffles or appears insensitive or cruel, in the knowledge that it rises from an ancient riverbed of pain. Sometimes it is the news of an accident, an affair, a splintering divorce or lingering illness that opens padlocked hearts, draws us together to deal with a family crisis bonded by our blood. Often it means dismounting from our high horse, bowing our heads to our hearts. Asking ourselves, “do you prefer that you be right, or happy?” (A Course in Miracles)

Like a flock of starlings, families have a murmuration, a rhythmic dance of energy that is passed on from generation to generation. Family therapists see “the identified patient”, the disturbed child or adolescent, who comes bearing the symptoms of the psychic life of the family.

Astrology describes a different approach to the standard psychological view. Our birth charts depict our perceptions of our parents, the unconscious conflicts they bring into the family home, family fate… present in the symbolism of our life journey. There is an old adage “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.”  Our horoscopes suggest we certainly do choose our family. Our father’s drinking, his covert affairs, the inconsistent or unavailable mother, our sister’s anger, our brother’s depression, is already innate, depicted in the birth chart. We are predisposed, or “fated” to experience our actual parents and the archetypal parents through inner images, our own filters. We may perceive our father as being rejecting, distant. Frequently our actual father will behave towards us in a way that will be rejecting and distant, despite himself. Our own behaviour and conscious or unconscious feelings will elicit a cold and distant response from this father figure who may have other attributes that are perceived very differently by our siblings.   Though the protagonists in the family drama are easy to identify, family complexes are enduring. Salvador Minuchin speaks of a family “system” to which the individual must adapt. Our challenge, our growth comes from knowing that our family members mirror what we disown in ourselves.  Only we can choose to break free of the tyranny of repetitive knee-jerk response to stressors, the old agreements, toxic dynamics and outworn resentments, to try on new behaviour.

Freedom from our suffering comes from taking back our projections, one by one. As Bryon Katie says succinctly, “Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them”.

Families are temples for spiritual growth. We elect the curriculum, and set our own pace to do the work. When things get painful we can choose to cut ties with those who trigger our tantrum-throwing inner two year old. To diminish and dilute painful contact to an occasional well-mannered Hallmark greeting card or a one-line text message. To allow the misunderstandings, miscommunications, to stretch and strain into years of silence.  Or we can value ourselves and our family of origin enough to stand in our own solid, flexible sense of Self. To take responsibility for our own lives, pull back our judgements, and open our hearts to incredible Love. That is Power.

The uniquely magnificent Adele, sings out her soul-sound: Hometown Glory

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