Facing Mental Defenses
In talking to a senior helper two days ago who knows me well, I could get a picture of myself. I could take in that I am an “authentic, earnest, dear person, good in an old-fashion way” and that I am “locked in my cognitive world of the mind. Soooo mental.” As he spoke, I could feel the armor of my mental arsenal, defending me against life experiences. I am taking strong cognitive skills and turning them into defenses. And as it would happen, I was just recording Pathwork Lecture 101 titled “The Defense.” Synchronicity at work.
This Pathwork Lecture 101 is quite good in helping me see how upon experiencing hurt, criticism, frustration, or other psychological “threats,” I become ungrounded and resort to my mind in order not to feel the hurt. A kind of schizoid characteristic. But in this way of living I am not really living, I am constantly, but unconsciously, warding off any and all imagined threats to my sense of being OK in the world in the face of my imperfections.
This came on the heels of a Hakomi body-work session I had had the day before as well. In this Hakomi session I could feel my defense, my “going to my head” to avoid feeling my feelings. The image came up that feeling my feelings would make me weak and child-like. I got the inner message early in life, “Grow up, Gary. Be a man! Be tough!” So I would not feel my emotional hurts, but rather retreat to the playground of my mind where I could be free, isolated, and safe. Yes, I can feel this world of my mind.
I did not learn how to connect to others apart from the very limited world of my mind. And the fixed self-generated constructs of my mind that gave me a sense of security could not be questioned, so I could not really engage others objectively in mental conversation because here, too, my inner world would be threatened. From this perspective I could experience my INTJ-ness, in Myers-Briggs lingo. (Still another friend helped me see that I am an “I” – introvert, not an “E” – extrovert, as I was considering. And in the fragility of my inner space I become a “J”- wanting things closed and clear, not a “P” – wanting things open and unclear.)
In the Hakomi session I could see that another image that supports my mental armoring is that feeling true feelings may reveal my defective nature. “Whole” “mature” people are beyond negative feelings of sadness, hurt, and grief. These negative feelings roll off a mature adult person like water off a duck’s back. And a corollary, “If my faith in God were authentic and strong, I would never have negative feelings. Negative feelings reveal doubt and a weak and defective faith.” And I could not tolerate either defect: being immature or having a weak faith. More armoring.
But I am in a double bind here, because “Gary, you are not feeling your feelings, you are in your head!” also makes me defective! Again I feel deficient. In this double bind, things become hopeless. I felt the collapse of hopelessness in my arms and chest area.
My Hakomi therapist asked that I consider the possibility that it is “OK to have negative feelings.” As I took that idea in I could feel my chest area expanding, my arms strengthening and full. I could feel my feet solidly on the ground. I was becoming fully incarnated in this body rather than running off to my mind of schizoid behavior. It was as if I were being pumped up from the inside. Yes, I could feel my negative feelings, my hurt, grief, loneliness while fully present in my body.
From here we returned to my mind, this time not as a defense but in its positive nature. My Hakomi therapist mirrored back my passion for “big ideas.” “You have so much energy when you speak of consciousness, cosmology, spirituality and worldviews. You light up. It is beautiful.” And I could feel this energy as well, not as a defense, and not as something I had to defend to be safe. These “big ideas” are just my ideas, they excite me, and I emanate this excitement when I am with others. They could be wrong ideas, immature ideas, and that is all OK. I am open to changing my mind in my search for truth. Yes, my passion for Truth is also alive in me.
In closing my Hakomi session I shared my sense of being a student so much of my life. My therapist would not let me take my studenthood negatively. Rather he returned, “You are a student of yourself. And you are willing to share what you learn about yourself in your blog.” I take that in. It feels good. And I also have negative motives in my blogging as well, just like all other human beings have negative motives in what they do. It’s all there. Just be fully human and fully alive, as a book by that title reminds me.
Getting back to my conversation with the senior Pathwork helper, he was struck by the depth, clarity and truth of a PowerPoint presentation I had made titled Pathwork, A Tool For Spiritual Transformation. So again a gift from my cognitive side. And here I can feel my passion, my aliveness in the world of ideas. Engaging with big ideas, not using them for my sense of security and defense.