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A Shared Life of Wrestling, Growth, and Discovery

Moving Forward in Couplehood after Divine Sexuality Workshop

I noticed that, although my previous blog described my experiences at Sagewalker’s Divine Sexuality workshop that Pat and I attended this past weekend, my blog entry focused mostly on my relating with myself rather than with my relating with Pat.  Of course my relationship with myself has to be in place before my relationship with Pat can mature, but still the absence of our couplehood in my blog, a blog written after a couplehood workshop, was noticeable to me. And if truth be known, during and subsequent to the workshop Pat and I have been processing our experiences a great deal, and so there is more to say on the subject of our relating. Hence, this follow-up blog…

Wednesday’s Coffee Conversation Time

Wednesday morning I commented to Pat about my sense of stuckness in our relating. Was I resigning myself to not being fulfilled in the sexual/physical dimensions of our otherwise beautiful relationship? And if I am resigned, is that as that OK? And if I’m not resigned to where we are in our relationship, why am I feeling stuck?

During our morning coffee time on the previous day, Tuesday (May 10, following the workshop), Pat reminded me of my March session with my helper Moira.  In this session Moira focused on my high level of eros or life energy that is expressed in so many ways – creating the Devotional Format of the Lectures, helping in the administration of the Sacred Dimensions of the Pathwork, maintaining my website and blog, having deep conversations with folks and the like – but when it came to my relating to Pat perhaps so much of my eros was leaking out in so many other areas of my interests and friends that I was not accessing my eros, my life force, in relating with Pat beyond our wonderful morning coffee practice.

Now on Wednesday, Pat’s reflection and reminder on Tuesday about “leaking eros” seemed correct. I saw that my “leaking eros” condition with Pat possibly stems from early attachment disorders with Mom and, perhaps to a lesser extent, with Dad. How so? Not feeling a warm physical/emotional connection with Mom from birth onward, I sought other outlets for my eros. In the process I created a “satisfying life” without the having a warm connecting relating experience with other people, especially with a would-be woman life partner.

This re-creation of my life with Mom created a condition in me that manifested in my being able to fall in love only with a woman who said, “No!” The “energy” or “eros” was not there in me if the woman said, “Yes” (a core issue in my marriage). I seemed to be experiencing negative pleasure – finding “pleasure” only in the “No!”

And with Mom, when the “No!” showed up, I was “fine,” I would simply sublimate my eros into other areas – church, career, other organizations, and even other “energetic-but-bounded” relationships. For fifty years I tried to make this work – and it seemed to work, that is, it seemed to work until it didn’t work, as I shared in earlier recent blog entries concerning my life changing at age 50.

From Sage’s workshop I could entertain the notion that my negative pleasure that caused me to love when love was not reciprocated and not to love when love was offered is a form of HATE. This was not hate of a particular woman or even hate of myself. Rather, it seemed to be a cloud of HATE that would darken my sky of LOVE. This seems like a strange statement, but it is how I am experiencing LOVE and HATE these days.

The HATE had juice and energy, evoking inner words like: “Fuck you!” “I resent you!” “I hate you!” But the HATE is just energy. There is no “you” that is the object it of the HATE. The object of the HATE, if anything, is the LOVE. HATE hates LOVE!  DARKNESS hates LIGHT!

As I shared this with Pat on Wednesday morning, Pat could feel the wisdom of my inquiry in these matters and saw my inquiry as a way in, a way, perhaps, to open the door to my heart.

Pat is being deeply moved by a new Matt Kahn book Whatever Arises, Love That – A Love Revolution That Begins With You, and she read aloud from pages 6 and 20. The words were meaningful to her and to me – “If HATE is present, then LOVE HATE.”  And Matt Kahn says it is important to feel the energy of HATE, to feel and hold the “Fuck you!” the Resentment, the Hate. Then love that!

The next step, according to Kahn, is to state the mantra, “I love you” – “I love what I am feeling as hate.” But here I saw resistance in the hate. It seems to me that HATE, when it is truly present, can’t stand being loved, and in fact strongly resists the energy of love coming at it.  But whether or not HATE can stand the LOVE coming at it, the LOVE, which just IS, is not influenced by HATE’s strong resistance. The LOVE energy, the LIGHT, will overcome the HATE, the DARKNESS over time. The HATE, the DARKNESS, must surrender to the LOVE, the LIGHT.

Another strange experience occurred during our Adyashanti meditation time after our “coffee conversation” Wednesday morning. For some unexplained reason it seemed I could love my HATE but I could not love my LOVE. Am I stuck in my negative pleasure with HATE?  That will have to be for a later inquiry.

Thursday’s Coffee Meditation Time…

Pat began our Thursday coffee time with the observation that it is hard to share one’s real self with another. I agreed, noting that I built a life on not connecting physically, emotionally, or even intellectually with Mom, Dad, or anyone else. I held inside both what I felt and what I thought. Rather than share, I was often not even aware of what I truly felt or truly thought. To “fit in” at home and elsewhere my emotions were off the table and my thinking had to be orthodox, correct and in line with Lutheran Church dogma and family values. I lived in fear of being wrong or bad. So I did not share intimately with others. Rather, I built my life around my hobbies and interests and held those close to my chest so as not to be challenged, fearing that others would mock or ridicule me for how I thought (if not orthodox) or how I felt (if I even knew what I felt). I was isolated and alone – but felt “oh so safe” in my own bubble of existence. And this “isolated bubble” became my normal way of being in the world.

I saw nothing wrong or odd in being in my isolated bubble. I did not feel that I was lonesome or isolated. I did not miss emotional or intellectual intimacy with others. I was private, AND I was happy being private. As far as I was concerned this emotionally and intellectually isolated way of living was pleasurable. No one beat me or punished me or ridiculed me – I simply did not let anyone truly see me. And I saw nothing unusual or negative in not reaching out to others, of not fostering emotional connections with others. This was especially true with peers. I was aware of feeling safer with adults – who appreciated my conformity and “good boy” behavior. In a way I would see my life as a form of negative pleasure – finding pleasure in things just as they were and not being aware of the rich world of intimacy and connection with others that my soul unconsciously longed for.

Pat reminded me that the Guide said that one has to give what one wants to receive. My challenge in this is that, not knowing what I was missing (warmth of emotional intimacy and connection), I was not able to give this to others. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I found the pleasure of emotional warmth of connection – and it was not with my wife – and then, as a fifty-year-old “adolescent,” being out of control in my first real affair. This affair gave me the experience of what I longed for, and recklessly and yet resolutely and with determination, I set out to pursue what I then knew I longed for: the warmth of an intimate emotional and physical connection with a woman.  I had no idea how to go about this, and brought a great deal of pain into the world in my ignorance and undaunted determination. A true bull in a china shop! I have great remorse for all the pain I created in my “ignorance and undaunted determination.”

And this pain from my “ignorance and undaunted determination” exists in my relationship with Pat. Not only has my “ignorance and undaunted determination” brought pain to Pat, the “bull in a china shop” pain, it has brought pain to myself as well – the pain of stuckness, frustration, and unfulfillment. I was able to share my sense of stuckness with Pat – confessing that I simply do not know how to move forward in building a more emotionally and physically warm connection with her . My unavailability emotionally “flat-lines” our relationship. What are our next steps? I really do not know.

Pat cautioned me against painting our relationship so negatively. She reminded me that we have so much going for us, that we are so perfectly matched spiritually and in our pursuit of a deeper experience of warmth of connection. She used the word “despair” to describe what she sensed I was feeling in our relationship.

Despair. That was a hard word for me to hear. But Pat’s putting the word “despair” on the table for me to consider brought me relief. Relief? How could that be, I wondered. But as I sat with the word I could bring my awareness to it. Despair felt like a foreign dark cloud entering the field. When I did not deny the cloud but rather embraced it I could bring LOVE to it. While I did not understand this process of feeling the despair fully, but yet not identifying with it, and then bringing LOVE to the despair, I could embrace the experience. The despair was like the dark cloud of HATE that came into my Wisdom Figure Dialog at Sage’s Divine Sexuality workshop a week ago. Seeing and feeling the despair rather than denying it and suppressing any feelings of despair was actually energizing. I shared this energizing with Pat. Something seems to be shifting in me, in us.

Friday’s Coffee Conversation Time

Our morning practice time – mostly conversation as described in this blog and the previous one – was an hour and a half long on both Wednesday and Thursday, and nearly two hours long on Friday. We have our next couples counseling Skype call with Sage and Anthony coming up on Monday, and so we took time on Friday morning to outline what we might want to discuss with them. We identified 5 topics to explore. All of this leads into our fifth annual 2½ -day intensive with Sage and Anthony in June.

Topic 1) Our “young ones” are terrified. Pat knows her experiences giving rise to terror at various young ages. I do not have specific instances but rather sense that my terror began with my traumatic birth experience and Mom’s unavailability emotionally thereafter. Mom had been in labor at the hospital for ten hours on October 15, 1942, when the doctor determined that Mom’s pelvis was too small for my head to pass through. The only way forward was an emergency C-section.  Into the OR we went, and I came out screaming. As I came into the world, the anesthesiologist exclaimed, “Es ist vollbracht” – “It is finished!” I can imagine the fear in the OR on all sides. Both the doctor and Mom had to be worried because of the unexpected surgery. Dad nearly fainted. And I can imagine my struggle as a baby trying to get out, panicking when I got stuck in the birth canal, and finally being pulled out though the slit cut in Mom’s abdomen. My aunt (Mom’s sister) was the attending nurse in the OR, and twenty years ago she shared with me how traumatic this emergency procedure was for all concerned.

Does such an experience leave an impact on the baby? On Thursday we had watched a video clip by Pat Ogden (author of the 2015 book Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – Interventions for Trauma and Attachment) that suggests the answer is “Yes.” (Of course the rebirthing work of therapists like Stanislav Grof M.D. say definitely “YES!”). In the video clip Ogden speaks of working with a woman who had to have corrective surgery on her legs when she was still a baby. Although her brain had no memory of life before the surgery, her body knew exactly how free and full of energy she was as an infant and how “defective” she “felt” in her “body” after the surgery. When the body memory was processed through in therapy, the woman experienced a freedom in her being unlike any she had ever known. So yes, my birth trauma could have left body memories.

Topic 2) Our own adults need coaching on how to nurture our young ones. Our adult selves in our re-parenting our young ones dare not force our young ones out into some re-traumatizing experience. Sage and Anthony model so well the gentleness we need to practice toward our young ones. Even now, after four years of work with them, I am not yet fully open with them. This amazes me – how deep is my terror?

Topic 3) We need to explore how to free up our young ones to play. We sense we need to not take ourselves so seriously, but for our young ones we do not know where to begin when it comes to play. Play, spontaneous physical play, seems needed – and we have no idea where to begin!

Topic 4) I told Pat that I feel unmoored and awash at sea. Pat is pleased at this. She finds me more alive when I am unmoored! I’m still apprehensive and need to surrender to this unmoored free and alive state.

Topic 5) Should we consider working with EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, or some other body-oriented therapy? At the workshop Sage referenced Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score – Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – and in it Kolk refers to EMDR and other such techniques as effective in trauma and attachment work.

Onward!

Shared in love, Gary

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Gary Vollbracht