A Couple's Intensive-Part 3: Mystic on the Playground, Individuation

Our work was deep and powerful on Friday, the second day of our intensive – two sessions, each two-and-a-half hours in length. Pat’s work was dominant in the morning session, and mine in the afternoon. Of course both of us were very present to ourselves and each other all day – how could we not have been present to each other in the container of silence, gentle reflecting and affirming that Sage and Anthony were creating for us!

During the afternoon session I got in touch with the part of me that was terrorized on the playground in grade school – not knowing how to interrelate with the other kids. The playground at recess was a kind of forced socialization, and I did not know how to be with the other kids, especially how to connect with them from my heart space that longed for connection, though I was too young to express what I was feeling in such language. No, I was just in terror on the playground, and for the most part doing everything I could to numb it out. So my terror was numbed and softened and so experienced only as anxiety and discomfort. Emotionally I was frozen.

So what did I do to connect and be safe in my grade-school days? First to be safe I relied on the authorities, the adult teachers, to keep things safe. As at home with Mom and Dad, I would be a “good boy” at school so that I would be in “good stead” with the teachers, and in turn the teachers would keep me safe in the presence of the other kids.  This mostly worked.

But of course that strategy for safety worked less well in the unstructured time at recess – so I would, mostly unconsciously, long for recess to be over so that we could be back in the safety of the structured time in the classroom. Oh, one other thing about recess. This would be a time for sports – something I was neither interested in nor skilled at. I would never be chosen first or second to be on a team, and, though mostly numbed out and unconscious, the awkwardness and shame of being chosen last or second to last every time teams were chosen stirred deep sadness within. So this shame and awkwardness in sports added to my tension on the playground.

So how did I connect with peers. Well I just didn’t, at least emotionally. I would do my best in school but I do not think this was in order to connect but rather simply to begin establishing my identity as the “good boy.” But even this was not overly conscious. I worked hard simply because that was who I was – the obedient hard-worker who would give his all – and I found that this gave me a framework in which to operate in my social surroundings in grade school – and beyond.

And I was an introvert, very comfortable playing in the sandbox by myself, or at home playing with my Gilbert Erector Set or American Flyer electric trains, or. In high school, reading a book on astronomy or chemistry or quantum physics. Beyond these favorite authors I did not have real live human mentors to guide and affirm me in my interests in Cosmology and the Meaning of Life. And spiritually no one would lead me beyond the intellectual world of Lutheran dogma and biblical fundamentalism. My spiritual longing for connection with God and the Cosmos, again mostly unconscious, was not nurtured beyond the conservative teachings of the Lutheran Church.

So my anxiety on the playground was due to my not fitting in very well and by my assuming that fitting in was what needed to happen. Dad wanted me to fit in socially, but this was not who I was. So I would go off to scout camp, play tuba in the grade school and high school orchestras, but never be really comfortable in these situations socially.

For whatever reason I would frequently find myself in leadership positions and enjoyed organizing things, but would not necessarily find purpose in the organizations themselves. This did, however, provide a way for me to “fit in” – I could be in a leadership role or serve an organization in another way, but would never really feel connected.  And I covered this pain of loneliness by overeating, which led to obesity and more criticism from Dad and shame in myself.

When I shared with Sage and Anthony where my joy in life came from today, I said unequivocally that it came from self-discovery and context discovery. The joy came during meditation when insights would emerge, or when I really “got” a new Pathwork Lecture concept, or when clarity emerged for me as I documented these matters of discovery in my blog or organized them on my Website. “So you are a mystic,” Sage said. “Really?” I wondered. This was not my idea of a mystic, but possibly this is true, at least in some sense. Certainly I was a Truth-seeker.

Anthony mentioned the importance of individuation, of coming to be my true self, to be that mystic or whoever I am. Of course trying to “fit in,” whether on the playground, or in the world of Mom and Dad, or the world of school, business, the church, or other organizations, was the opposite of individuation. And I could see that so much of my life has been in the direction of “fitting in,” a value that I had created for myself to feel safe.

Take Pathwork, for example. If I am a mystic who resonates with and is enlivened and inspired by the Pathwork Lectures, in the processes of self-discovery, and by the Grand Mystery that is unfolding as my Life, what am I doing spending so many hours on Pathwork organizational matters?

And why am I working so hard with others in the Pathwork community who do not seem to me to be mystics – so committed to seeking meaning and the truths of the spiritual and manifested world – in the way that I am at my core.  What I experience so often in my Pathwork community is a path that is very focused on the psychological growth, using of a wide range of tools such as emotional processing to uncover unconscious patterns from psychological wounds, rather than a path equally inspired by the Grand Mystery that wants to unfold in each of our lives? But perhaps I am not really understanding others in the community and if I understood them more I would find that they are more on my page of “mystic” than I realize. But my sense that they are not is, perhaps, why I am ambivalent about so many of our various programs and am so drawn to the graduate-level program that Erena Bramos is teaching – I have a sense that perhaps this program will be a program that meets my needs for support as a mystic!

So perhaps I was a mystic who was out of place everywhere he found himself: on the physically-oriented playground, in the structured school and dogmas of the church, in the organized structure of business and other organizations, and even Pathwork organizations, environments, and methods of teaching that I am in today. At last, going on 70, it is time to individuate into who I truly am.

One of my core images was that I had to fit in. This is not true! It is by not fitting in that I can finally be reborn, born into the true being that I am.  I am reminded of the old fairy tail of the ugly duckling who felt so out of place growing up among the ducks he was with and then finally coming to realize the majesty of who he was: a beautiful white swan.  Anthony used the phrase in explaining who I am of my being “a finely tuned sensitive instrument,” so delicate, so precise, so beautiful. And of course so wild, destructive, and full of rage – leading to my characterization of being a beautiful white stallion that needs to be tamed – perhaps a role in which Pat can participate!

And how does this individuation process in me relate to Pat’s and my relationship? It is our individuated selves that want to be in our couplehood rather than the un-individuated pieces of us that are caught in patterns and webs of our being: patterns, images, wrong-beliefs, and wrong conclusions about life that have been reinforced by the cultures and environments we have grown up in.  Much of this patterning in each of us is about “fitting in.” And we want to help each other in our respective individuations. AND during this individuating process all the un-individuated pieces of each of us also interact and relate, creating some of the pains and complexities in our relationship that need to be experienced and held with understanding, curiosity, and compassion as slowly they are purified and transformed.

This individuation will result in our true differences manifesting, and these differences, while sometimes very challenging to accept in each other, can add energy to our relationship. Pat being fully the woman she is and I being fully the man that I am can lead to a powerful experience of Union. All of this may be quite challenging in our respective processes of individuating but in the end holds such possibility of evolving into a relationship that is quite rich as we increasingly become connected in ways that we cannot even yet imagine.

I am aware of how, over the past six months especially, I have seen and honored the unique gifts that Pat brings to our relationship – her deeper knowing and experiencing of the transcendent, her directness in expressing truth, her openness to the fear she feels in life, and so on. And Pat, too, appreciates what I bring to the relationship: the honoring of Mystery, the Unknown, and the grand scale of the cosmos in all its many manifestations of reality and levels of consciousness and energy.  And both of us long to grow into the beings we truly are!

Shared with love, Gary