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A Shared Life of Wrestling, Growth, and Discovery

Dancing With The Work of PathWork

I felt great after completing yesterday’s blog entry. The time with our couple’s counselors Sage and Anthony Monday afternoon, the time Pat and I spent together Tuesday morning in both silence and deep reflective conversation on our session with Sage and Anthony, my sharing much of this experience that I had with Sage, Anthony, and Pat later yesterday morning in my weekly Tuesday morning “Coffee at Panera” with my brother Paul, and then finally my creating and feeling satisfied with the blog entry I created in order to share my experience with others made Tuesday an oh-so-wonderful and joyful day.

Then later on Tuesday I received an email from our couple’s counselor Sage suggesting that Pathwork Lecture 140: Conflict of Positive Versus Negative Oriented Pleasure as the Origin of Pain might be helpful for me based on our Monday session with her and Anthony.

I thanked her in a reply email. I recognized my “thank you” was a bit perfunctorily and that for some reason I was not really wanting her suggestions after having spent all day being with the experiences of the Monday session.  What was that resistance about? In part I was simply tired of self-work, of PathWork. I can hardly believe I just said this, but there is truth in it! Too much of what I love!

In my responding email to Sage I not only thanked her for the lecture recommendation but I also went on to speak of the richness of the day, including mention of my May 17th blog entry. I made it clear that while I found my experiences and my blog so fulfilling for me, I in no way expected her or Anthony to read my blog entry for the day. Why was I so cautious with her when in fact I was quite satisfied with my creation and would even delight in her reading it — a point of connecting?

In concluding the email responding to Sage I went on to confess to her how anxious I was in sending her information about the blog at all. Why all the confessing? Why not just let my inner joy and satisfaction with the blog carry the day with her, whether she chose to read it or not – and, more importantly, carry the day with me, whether Sage read it or not? Did it really matter to me whether she or Anthony read this blog? In a way, of course it mattered, and in another way it did not really matter.

After sending the email to Sage, my wonderfully fulfilling Monday and Tuesday was closing with this anxiety over sending the email. Yes, a cloud of darkness and anxiety was coming in on my evening. I wasn’t sure what was in my anxiety and the darkness rolling in, but there it was, and I was very aware of it.

When we awoke Wednesday morning, Pat and I skipped our Wednesday morning coffee-meditation time. The power had gone out around 1 AM and would not be on until noon or later. The house was cool without heat, and we could not make coffee without the electricity on. So off we went to Panera Bread for coffee and, for me, oatmeal. After breakfast, Pat left for a meeting with a friend while I stayed on at Panera, my home away from home. Unexcitedly and with some resistance and disgruntlement I had taken Sage’s recommended lecture, Lecture 140, along with me to Panera’s and after Pat left I began reading it. This was one of the seven lectures I had worked with in preparation for Sage’s Divine Sexuality workshop ten days ago, having created an updated Devotional Format posting for it, and so the material was quite familiar to me.

I was not surprised that the lecture immediately engaged me (once again), and in particular it engaged me regarding the anxiety I felt from sending Sage the email about my blog. The lecture invited inquiry concerning the conflicting positive and negative attitudes in me giving rise to my stress, tension, anxiety and pain from having sent the email to Sage. What were the conflicting attitudes in me giving rise to my anxiety?

First I went with the positive and focused on the May 17th blog I had referenced for Sage. Part of me was quite excited about the blog itself – the content of what I had created in the blog, its honesty and its depth and richness of insights that came out of my experiences with Sage, Anthony, Pat, and Paul. It was a part of me! Secondly, I also had positive feelings in my reaching out and revealing myself to others. I had not simply kept my insights to myself as I might have done with a journal. The blog seemed to be coming from my inner positive attitude and nature, that bursting forth of life from deep within me. As I sat with this I could feel the joy and pleasure this creation and its sharing brought me.

So now what about the negative attitudes and energies, the counter-currents that Lecture 140 speaks to? At first I felt the negative in my negative attitude that I would be killed by Sage – that she would find something in me hopelessly flawed as revealed in the blog or even in my creating the blog in the first place and sharing it with others. Would Sage judge me as narcissistic, arrogant, or in other ways being quite inappropriate in my blog? Eventually I could smile at this, realizing that it was not Sage’s nature to destroy me. This did not mean that she would not challenge me in exploring truth, but she would flame, not snuff out, the spark of the life force within me. There was more than this fear of being judged harshly by Sage in the negative ledger of my palette of attitudes.

But maybe not! I recalled that at other times recently I had, in my “boyish” “show and tell” exuberance, shared some things with Sage and Anthony that they did not respond to and later even questioned why I was sharing these things with them at all. Perhaps this questioning sensitized me against sending them anything at all between our sessions. It seemed that the mere act of sending something was going to bring criticism and correction – I was being a “bad boy.” Here I was genuinely perplexed. On the one hand it seemed somehow inappropriate to create a blog regarding what came out of one of our sessions without at least letting them know that the blog existed, whether or not they read it, and on the other hand to share anything with them between sessions was not part of our “contract.” This tension between “send” and “not-send” and the resulting perplexity felt real to me – I want my relationship with them as sometimes expressed in my blog to be seen and shared with them on the one hand and on the other I sense this is very wrong and not part of our contract. So this attitude and understanding in me would be a mild version of the “fear that Sage would destroy me,” but would be more driven by my hypersensitivity to any criticism for, or even exploration of, sharing anything with them.

In my inquiry, another negative aspect came to the surface. There was an attitude that I would have to conform to however Sage thought my blog writing should be, even if that meant having no blog at all. Yes, conforming to outer authority has been so much of my life. Rather than give my creativity or my love or my sense of philosophical, cosmic, or spiritual truth free rein, something in me says I have to conform to survive. This meant conforming to Mom’s and Dad’s values, to conservative Lutheran teachings, and later to “conventional” scientific or cosmological, or metaphysical, or philosophical or psychological or spiritual teachings. In this need to conform I would seek suitable outer authorities in all these areas of interest to establish values and truths by which I could live my life “safely” and “pleasurably.”

Now what would be the pleasure behind conforming to outer authorities (here Sage) rather than manifesting my inner authority from my own intuitive sense of things? By the latter I do not mean never considering outer authority’s wisdom, but rather that my own resonance with outer authority would govern what outer wisdom, if any, I accepted.

By over-conforming I would be killing my own arising intuitive truths and creativity. Where would the pleasure come from in “killing” my own essence? I can consider two sources. First, being miserable in killing my essence by conforming, I can feel a certain pleasurable “spite energy” in striking back at my parents, the church, school, and so many other outer authorities – the spite of, “So there, I conformed to all that you wanted. In the process I’ve killed my true self. Because of that, I’m miserable. I hope you’re happy!” Yes, I can feel such spite, wanting to punish authority by making them feel guilty for having made me so miserable by tempting me always to seek their approval and praise. So in putting myself out there in my own essence in my blog I would be losing the negative pleasure of spiting authority. Could this be true in my relationship with Sage? I think not, but it is a possibility. And I’m sure it’s true with other outer authorities in my life – for example, parents, church, and the general culture of the business and organizational world I lived in so long.

I can also feel pleasure in holding myself down, a self-punishing energy. Having interjected a few negative messages from my parents about being overweight, antisocial, unmusical, slow, and the like, I now judge myself this way. While these were negative messages, since they were an aspect of my relationship with my parents, I misidentified these criticisms as “love” and hence as “pleasurable” – another negative pleasure was born.

In my life growing up I was more familiar with and hence comfortable with criticism regarding who I was. And when I received praise it was usually around things that did not matter too much to me, and in fact that were not me – the pianist, the eagle scout, the good student, the obedient one, and so on. So I would resent praise because it was not praise for being who I sensed I was but rather praise for conforming to various cultural norms for performance. But there was pleasure nonetheless in holding myself down. In my blog I was not holding myself down – and in my blog I am open about my struggles, and being open about my emotional and other struggles was something I knew nothing about growing up. Did not holding myself down, that is by sharing myself in my blog, make me uncomfortable because it was unfamiliar territory? And here with Sage and my email, was this “not holding myself down” by writing this blog part of my anxiety? It could be, and worth considering in other relationships I have, but I think not here with Sage.

In reading all of Lecture 140 I realized that there are for sure many more dimensions to the negativity in me that give rise to the kind of pain I felt in sending my email to Sage. Over time, as I continue my inquiry process, these other negative attitudes in me may reveal themselves. In the meantime I feel very drawn to Pathwork Lecture 140 that Sage recommended. And as this lecture says, just recognizing that I am the cause of my own anxiety in this this instance with Sage is quite freeing, even though I do not yet know many of these particular underlying causes that reside within me.

And I notice that simply being with this lecture, considering and exploring how these teachings apply to me and my life in this and other situations, brings me out of my anxiety and into more joy and pleasure in life, the joy in being more fully who I am in the here and now!

Is that not that joy in being more fully who I am benefit enough in return for the time I spend reflecting on this or any other Pathwork Lecture or on similar material that encourages inquiry and self-confrontation? For me it is.

Shared in love, Gary

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Gary Vollbracht