My Pervasive Backdrop of Bitterness
Meditation and Coffee Time – Saturday 12/1/12
This time on Saturday follows up on my Thursday session with Moira Shaw. Last night Pat and I watched As Good As It Gets with mean-mouthed obsessive-compulsive novelist Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) and waitress Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt). I could relate to Melvin Udall easily – seeing his mean-mouthed obsessive compulsiveness coming out of a deep deep bitterness toward life and everyone in it. Though I keep it under wraps, I could really feel this mean-spirited negativity in me! But like me, Udall could not recognize his own kindness as it gradually evolved in the movie in his relationship with his neighbor’s dog, with Carol the waitress and finally with his neighbor himself. Yet, again like me, he just could not see his kindness and love coming out and refused to acknowledge even to himself that it was showing up in him. Finally he “got it,” but it was-oh-so-challenging for him, and painful to watch his road to get there.
Let me further explore my own origins of bitterness, places where I gave up on life and on what I longed for in life, and where I used my “giving up on life” to prove my case of victimhood to myself, and to reinforce my belief that I would never get what I most longed for in life. Most of this began with my relationship with authority – Mom, Dad, school teachers and principals, church pastors and leaders, and even with peers. As has come out in our sessions with Sage and Anthony, as I was growing up there was no one there for me in authority or in my peer group that would affirm in me who I really was, or so it seemed. Yes, I developed an appreciation of classical music, but at the cost of having to practice the piano and tuba even though I really was not all that good at it. We did not go the route of music appreciation, exploring what in music might interest me. No, it was mostly discipline as I recall – practicing until I got it right, sometimes with tears flowing from my eyes. Yet in the end I did come to deeply appreciate classical music, “discovering” Beethoven from records I would borrow from the library while in high school.
I was not socially inclined or adept, and yet I was forced by Dad (for my own good) to go to a junior high dance with a girl to whom I did not really relate. And I was clueless as to how to approach girls in whom I was interested. If a girl asked me to a dance I would go, but heaven forbid if I would fervently pursue any girl I was attracted to. Amazing. And so sad. In college I joined a social fraternity in which I was not comfortable being, I dated girls I was not attracted to. While I enjoyed learning, I worked overly hard at my studies to do well in school, but in a very one-sided and unbalanced way. And, remarkably, I doggedly stuck with the Lutheran Church even though its dogma and structure did not enliven me. I just did not see how I fit into life, but was unconscious as to just how true this was. Yet I was so committed to hard work and being “responsible” that I actually made life “work” for me. In seeing how hard I worked at things to which I did not fully relate from my Essence and heart, I can feel the bitterness that had to be there but which was deeply buried in my unconsciousness.
And like Melvin Udall, through this all I would regularly do acts of kindness and be generous for causes not my own. I would never expect anything from life in return for my generosity, and was often not aware of my generosity. Unconsciously I would not even want life to work for me – proving to myself (and to Life) that life deserves to be punished! Amazingly, I did not ever expect to be met and valued for who I am.
Even I did not even know who I was, nor did I think I had a right to be my own person. Rather, I would have my sense of self be in relationship to how I met the needs and opinions of others. I was not aware of the underlying bitterness in my soul that was building up, and my patterned behavior would keep me bound up in this bitterness. I would serve organizations that needed me rather than those which fit my interests and longings. I would become an engineer, a church leader, a business administrator – for organizations none of which really meant much to me but nevertheless were used by my ego to establish my sense of identity. In the end I became trapped in my own prison of doing what others thought I should be doing, a prison I thereby created for myself.
The same related to my relationships – forming relationships and committing to them even though they did not fit me. More bitterness developed. As I write this I can feel my sadness – both for the person I was in relationship with as well as for myself. And I can apply this to God and Jesus Christ as well, since I had not developed a basis for forming relationships with fellow human beings I had no concept of what a true relationship with the Divine would be.
And Pat and I are working this through in our work with each other and with Sage and Anthony. Am I perpetuating my bitterness with Pat in order to prove to myself that life will never give me what I want, here meaning there are times when Pat is not giving me what I want from our relationship. Our counseling with Sage and Anthony has been so critical here – helping me to understand what intimate relationships are all about and how to nurture and build them. So much for me to learn.
I can see this pattern also with Pathwork on an organizational basis. I am clear about one thing: I love the Pathwork Lectures and love applying them to my life. My recording of the Pathwork Lectures over a six year period came out of this pure energy and effortless effort. Also, I enjoy talking with others about their lives in the context that Pathwork gives me, even though I usually do not mention Pathwork per se in my conversation with others. Pathwork simply informs me about how I am in life – such as here showing me my bitterness and seeing how my bitterness brings needless pain into my life and the life of those around me. This awareness enables me to recognize bitterness in others and perhaps be more present to them in their bitterness. If they are fellow Pathworkers or are open to Pathwork they can become a worker with me, or perhaps just a conversationalist with me. I love conversations about matters spiritual when the sharing is mutual. And finally, I know that I experience joy in writing these blog entries, sharing my wrestling and discoveries about life.
That’s Pathwork and what I so appreciate from it. But I struggle with all the organizational stuff related to Pathwork. I seem to trap myself in the roles I play in Mid-Atlantic Pathwork. While I love Pathwork, I am not at all into the organizational stuff. AND YET I find myself in all the organizational stuff. Why? It does not seem to come out of a Call to serve in some way. It seems to be playing off the same patterns of earlier times in my life — somehow trying to find my identity by skipping over what I really love in Pathwork and rather seek my identity from the roles I play in the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork Organization. Yesterday’s Board of Trustees meeting and the Finance Committee meeting two weeks ago were both very challenging for me — my heart is simply not in all of this administrative stuff.
But it’s not black and white. Quite unexpectedly, today’s Pathwork Council meeting was quite inspiring for us all – I and the others were actually feeling Spirit in our midst at times and sharing how Spirit has been affecting some of us. It was beautiful. So this business of what roles to play is tricky – what is my Call in all of this? I pray for discernment. And I pray for courage to exit gracefully the roles I am likely not being Called to fill in the first place. Not exiting roles I am not Called to fill will simply result in more bitterness and resentment – leading to weariness and burnout, and really not helping others or the organization. Rather, I need to sense my true Call and commit fully to that Call – Knowing that this will be effortless effort, just like the recording of the lectures was.
I notice something else resulting from my bitterness. I indulge in substitutes to find my joy. Earlier in my life it would have been buying a really nice camera, a nice car, a comfortable house, the latest computer from Apple, etc. Earlier in my life I also discovered relationships that gave me joy, but they were unworkable in the end. All of this pursuing substitutes for joy also played into my bitterness.
Meditation was complete, and Pat then joined me for coffee time. I shared with her my issues with bitterness, spitefulness, and resentment, comparing my state to that of Melvin Udall in the movie, and noticing how pervasive bitterness was in my life. To my amazement, Pat supported me in this project of self-discovery, of discovering my bitterness! Pat: This is subtle and very deep work you are doing! And yes, Melvin did good things that didn’t even register with him, just like you so often do. You deny your love, kindness, and generosity – for whatever reason you don’t, or won’t, see it. And remember that all the characters in the video changed, not just Melvin. Carol grew out of her hyper-vigilance and suspicions about men, and then there was the sweet innocence of Melvin’s neighbor Simon, which was a delight to watch.
Gary: Yesterday a Pathwork friend of mine said I was “so sweet” to do such and so. Like Melvin, I could not take this in. Or would not take this in – denying that I could have any sweetness let alone valuing whatever sweetness I might let leak out. Pat: When you grab onto “bitterness” or “resentful” and color these as pervasive in you, seeing those negative qualities as being all you are, it seems off. The other end of this spectrum is your sweetness. Gary: Ditto my generosity, it, too, is at the other end of the spectrum from bitterness and resentment. Pat: As you accept and feel your bitterness and resentment you are also able to accept and feel your sweetness and generosity. Gary: I notice that your seeing and valuing my kindness toward you yesterday touched me. AND it challenged my case against Life, and my belief or image: Gary, you will never be valued for who you are. I expect to not be valued for who I am in my Divine Qualities, my Higher Self Qualities, here my generosity and sweetness. And I do not accept my own value, my own sweetness and kindness. How odd, yet seemingly true for me.
Pat: You have always said you and I are like Harry and Sally in the movie Harry Meets Sally. Perhaps we are more like Carol (I being the hyper-vigilant one) and Melvin (you the one who is bitter and resentful toward life). On another subject, I assess that I often do not trust my sense of things, my own intuition and feelings. I too often ignore or discount the feel of that information arising deep from within, my own sense of truth. And I make choices that do not align with my sense of truth. I feel off balance at such times. I ask myself, “What action here best serves,” but I am muddy and unclear as to what best serves the whole. Gary: The Pathwork Guide speaks of our intuition as our Higher Self Knowing, but we must grow our skill in accessing our true and deepest intuition – and in the process of growing, we must be willing to make mistakes where we misinterpret our sense of things or do not recognize when our sense of our intuition is distorted in some way. We learn and our intuition matures when we practice acting on our intuition and later evaluating what was true and what may have been distorted.
Pat: The visualization scene I am using in my AIP practice these days comes from a very young age, and is the one where Dad, intending to be funny, teases me about being Joe Bfstplk – the Al Capp cartoon character with the cloud of negativity over his head all the time. What I took in from this teasing is that it is dangerous to be open to the experience of Life. I was too much for Mom, that is, too emotional. So this is how I shut down to the Life Force in me.
Gary: Yes, and as we sit with all of this I realize that perhaps I do not know the joy that could be mine if I let go of my bitterness and resentment. I seem to cling to my bitterness and resentment rather than risk LIVING. Pat: So we are shedding light on an entire web of patterned behavior in both of us here – and I can see that perhaps this is what negative intentionality is.
Gary: When we face our negative intentionality there is nothing we can do about it. Our “puny” self-will is not up to the task of dealing with it. Healing our negative intentionality is beyond the capacity of our mind and Ego. Moving from negative to positive intentionality is about transformation – which is beyond purification. For transformation we have to humbly admit our inadequacy to move forward and ask for Spiritual help.
But I can feel my fear arise here. What if this Spiritual help is to come from Jesus Christ? Because of my early church experiences my fear is that Jesus Christ will want me to be something I am not – his help would end in my self-annihilation. So, fearing self-annihilation, I refuse to ask Jesus Christ for help. But really, what is the TRUTH about Jesus Christ here? If Jesus Christ exists and is a real Source of Spiritual help, would this Jesus Christ want to annihilate me? The answer, in my brain at least, is of course not. Jesus Christ, if he exists as a Spiritual Being related to God in some way, would want me to be fully who I am. And this Jesus Christ would want to help me be fully who I am. If I can come to Know all of this intuitively and experientially in some way deep in my heart and body rather than just see it theoretically true intellectually, and come to Trust this TRUTH and engage this Jesus Christ, well this would change everything! I am reminded of Pathwork Lecture 159 Life Manifestation Reflects Dualistic Illusion that we are using for our Pathwork Graduate Class next month. Near the end the lecture develops the theme that GOOD and PLEASURE are ONE, not opposites. I do not have to give up joy and pleasure (thinking that experiencing pleasure and joy is being selfish) in order to be good (thinking that being good is being unselfish).
Pat: This is opening to something we do not Know. I am reminded of Melvin Udall opening up and experiencing his own kindness and love. Gary: We are creating what we long for, so we want to make our longings conscious. Pathwork Lecture 194 Meditation: Its Laws and Various Approaches — A Summary (Meditation as Positive Life Creation) guides us in this process with its four step approach: 1) Conceptualize (and purify the conceptualization, removing distortions and unconscious counter currents), 2) Impress our Soul Substance with our purified conceptualization, 3) Visualize by feeling what realization of our longed-for purified concept would be like, and 4) Wait – in Faith, trusting that it will be so.
Shared in love, Gary