Category Archives: Feelings

Irresistible Love

Nabascha

© Copyright Nabascha

We talk a lot about romantic love around Valentine’s Day. When romantic love devours us, we can find ourselves joyfully lost, frightened, and overpowered by intense feelings of belonging. And when this romantic love-bubble bursts, we seem to deflate into a mess of hurt, broken, and overshadowed feelings of failure and unworthiness.

It seems that love, from our human perspective, is inherently limited. The love we feel for another, as partners, family and friends, seems to come with all kinds of conditions. Some of these conditions may seem quite reasonable. For example, you might feel perfectly justified to say to your spouse: “I love you, but not if you have an affair/physically harm me/gamble away all our money.” Other conditions may be more dubious: “I love you, but only if you agree with me/let me have my own way/have enough money, beauty, fame/share my beliefs/keep me from being lonely…” This list can go on and on, depending on the deep inner needs that are unmet in the individual lover.

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Letter to a Millennial Mom

Busy-ParentsDear Millennial Mom,

I realize that I am more than twice your age and might not know what’s going on. I admit that I don’t even own a smart phone. Maybe if they sold wise phones I might buy one. At 60 years old, I grew up during the time when phones were stuck to the walls, you needed to buy film for your camera, and computers were monstrous machines hidden in IBM basements.

I want to ask you to please put your phone away.

This letter is written after deep reflection. My need for you to put your phone away culminated when we met after the Christmas Eve service. I was so happy to see you and meet your two-month-old son. Last time we met, you were preparing for his birth. I was delighted to see his head covered in dark curls. He was sleeping soundly despite the festivities around us. Your husband was so proud. I bent over the little one in his stroller and marveled at his creamy skin and calm breath. Baby’s fingernails have always fascinated me. Like tiny rose petals topped with a perfect quarter moon. I gently brushed his cheek and whispered hello.

And then you dug into your purse and whipped out your phone. You had to show me pictures of your son right after his birth. Photo after photo slid across the small screen, which I can’t really see because I have become farsighted. You wanted me to marvel at his pictures. I wanted to marvel at your son.

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Paris, Peace and Pulling Weeds

Candles lit in Hong Kong cnnIt is difficult not to respond in some way to the terrible events that happened in Paris on Friday night. I see photos of the victims, most of them smiling profiles downloaded from social media pages. They all seem to be young, a diversity of faces. I see slogans and calls for justice, twitter handles and French flags – Peace for Paris, #PrayforParis, #ParisisaboutLife.

I see that on Sunday night French fighter jets launched their biggest raids in Syria to date, targeting the Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa. Taking off from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan and in coordination with US forces, the jets dropped 20 bombs on the city that night.

I see that the French president, François Hollande, said, “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless.”

Oh God. Where to begin with all of this? Continue reading

Empathy Training Shoes Part I

Watermelon shoes by Meg Duguid

Watermelon shoes by Meg Duguid.

This week the world’s first Empathy Museum is opening in London. I have to admit that when I first learned of this, I had to wonder. Do we need to put empathy in a museum to preserve it? Like an ancient artifact, is empathy so rare that we have to start visiting it in a museum?

Well, no. Obviously, I have turned this around. The international touring exhibition has been designed and created by Roman Krznaric to help us to “appreciate other people’s viewpoints, experiences and feelings.” He and his team of collaborators want people to step into the shoes of other people – literally. One of the exhibits invites you to enter a shop where a sales assistant will help you select a pair of shoes to wear, for example, the sandals of a political refugee or shoes belonging to an Etonian banker.

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Does Money Matter? Sending Help to Nepal

Nepal aid piled up.

Nepal aid piles up while our prayers arrive instantly.

Perhaps you find yourself overwhelmed at times with all the requests for financial help that seem to bombard you. Walking downtown in a major city, you might be asked for money from a stranger or find a beggar sitting along the road with a sign for help. At that moment, we are often besieged with existential questions. What should I do? How can I really help? How much money is enough? Will the money help at all?

Soon after the news of the earthquake in Nepal, my husband and I did send money (along with our prayers) to an organization that was helping with relief efforts. As you may know, humanitarian aid is still having trouble reaching those in need, as NGOs face massive logistical difficulties, including Nepalese custom regulations. It does seem that our prayers have become more valuable than our money, able to arrive instantly beyond the roadblocks and border controls.

Currently, I am a support member of an international Christian fellowship, and we are working through financial requests from various charities. There seems to be no end to the need for money! Money to rebuild homes in flooded Malawi, to pay for a young man’s education in India, a school for orphans in Indonesia, Ebola health workers in Senegal. And, of course, now for those suffering in Nepal. The list seems infinite. How can we possibly choose what cause to support?

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Playing with Dream Symbols

dreamsAssagioli wrote little about dreams or how to interpret them. Despite being a student of Freud’s and colleague of Jung’s, he felt that dreams reveal only a partial aspect of the human personality. He also believed that only part of the unconscious is able, or willing, to express itself through dreaming. He wrote that dreams that occur during the psychosynthesis process reveal the dreamer’s energetic forces, environment, and the inner world that birthed the dream.

In the last blog, I wrote about symbols and how we can consciously use them to further our personal and spiritual growth. We can also use the symbols that unconsciously appear to us in our dreams. Dreams are expressions of our life force, and the symbols that appear in them can be interpreted a multitude of ways from both a personal and collective perspective. Jung was once asked for advice from someone who had the idea of publishing a dictionary of symbols. His response was not to do it, since each symbol would require an entire book!

Jung’s general advice about how to look at a dream is:

“Treat every dream as though it were a totally unknown object. Look at it from all sides, take it in your hand, carry it about with you, let your imagination play around with it.”

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Miss Victorious Meets Miss Silent

The Subpersonality Process

The Subpersonality Process

This is an edited excerpt from my article, ‘Coping with anxiety and rebuilding identity: A psychosynthesis approach to culture shock’, published in Counselling Psychology Quarterly. I am happy to announce that it has been included in an online article collection featuring the most downloaded articles published in Routledge Behavioral Sciences journals in 2014.

The collection features the top three most downloaded articles that were published and downloaded in 2014 in each Routledge Behavioral Sciences journal.

You can download my article (along with others you might find interesting) for free until the 30th June.

Special thanks to “Maria” for allowing me to use her drawings and testimony in this post.


Usually inner conflict is a result of two or more subpersonalities clashing because they each have different needs. You can begin to recognize your subpersonalities by being honest about the roles you play in your everyday life. For example, do you always need to be perfect at everything? Then you probably have a dominant Mr or Mrs Perfect subpersonality. Do you freeze when meeting new people in social settings? Then perhaps you have a Mr or Miss Freeze subpersonality. Your subpersonalities are revealed through the different roles you play in different situations with different people.

By first recognizing your different subpersonalities, you start your journey towards creating more harmony in your life. The subpersonality process includes the following stages: recognition, acceptance, coordination, integration, and synthesis. This process does not happen overnight, but takes patience and lifelong practice.

Maria’s Story

Reconcilation

Miss Victorious and Miss Silent

Let’s take a look at how Maria (not her real name) was able to work through the subpersonality process and integrate two conflicting, polar subpersonalities: Miss Victorious and Miss Silent. The more dominant Miss Victorious wanted to control all situations and be the best. She needed recognition and could operate in the rational world with great success. Miss Silent, on the other hand, was sensitive, deeply emotional, and more creative. She wanted acceptance for who she was and needed safety, space and time alone.

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Intuition and the Angel Highway

Most of us felt some relief saying goodbye to 2014; the news never seemed worse. Now barely two weeks into 2015, the news seems even grimmer. We can easily fall into despair about the state of the world. But recently I listened to a discussion about the physics of angels, and, to balance the horrors we see everyday in the news, I want to bring angels into the conversation.

Two Islamic angels write in the Book of Life, suggesting angels' ongoing and attentive interest in human affairs (1280 A.D., Iraq)

Two Islamic angels write in the Book of Life, suggesting angels’ ongoing and attentive interest in human affairs (1280 A.D., Iraq)

During the month of Advent, I decided to paint angels that are connected with the Christmas story. I believe they do exist and are waiting for us to listen to them. The name angel derives from the Greek angelos meaning “messenger.” Angels are agents ready to guide, creatively inspire, aid, and teach us, and they have stirred the imagination of artists, writers, mystics, and ordinary persons throughout the ages, across cultures and belief. More than 80% of Americans believe in angels.

Angels approach us through dreams, visions, and meditative states and can appear in the form of voices, human or animal shapes, as male or female or androgynous beings, or as stars or light. Beings without matter, their wings are a symbol of their great spiritual energy. We delight in their cherub cuteness, but, in reality, they can also be fierce and terrifying.

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Join the Magi – Embrace the Sublime

Often the Christmas story is left unfinished. We usually stop right after the three Wise Men offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn Child. The part we tend to skip over is the Slaughter of the Innocents. This massacre of all boys two years and younger in and around Bethlehem is a horrific part of the story that doesn’t easily fit into the joy of Christmas.

innocentsDuccio

The story goes like this: Following a rising star in the hopes of paying homage to the Child, the Wise Men from the East first stop to pay their respects to King Herod in Jerusalem. They ask if he knows where the infant king is. When King Herod hears about the Child, he is perturbed by the prospect of a competitor king, as are the chief priests and scribes. Herod asks the priests if they have any idea where the Child is to be born. They cite from the prophecies that the birthplace is Bethlehem. Herod then privately summons the Wise Men and sends them onto Bethlehem, telling them to “Go and find out all about the Child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and pay him homage.”

After finding the Child and offering their gifts, the Wise Men are warned by an angel in their dreams not to return to King Herod, but to return home by another road. When Herod learns of their surreptitious departure, he is furious and decrees that all male infants must be indiscriminately killed, hoping that the Child will be among them. Meanwhile, an angel appears to Joseph in his sleep, telling him to leave immediately with Mary and Jesus to Egypt. The three become refugees and are spared from the experience of the slaughter.

The Slaughter of the Innocents is crucial to our understanding of the entire Christmas message. Once a vulnerable child full of Light and Love is born, a powerful leader feels threatened and wants him murdered. His evil desire extends not only to the child, but to many innocent children. What might this story reveal to us today?

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Listen with the Ear of Your Heart

Ear of the HeartListen carefully. Obsculta is the first word of guidance written by St. Benedict, the 6th century mystic and Father of western monasticism. His Rules for Monks is still used today to direct the lives in Benedictine communities. St. Benedict immediately qualifies what kind of listening they, and we, need to do. Obsculta inclina aurem cordis tui – “Listen by inclining the ear of your heart.” What could he possibly mean? Our hearts have ears? If that is true, then how do they work?

St. Benedict’s poetic language is asking us to listen, not just with our ears, but with our hearts to all that comes our way. While we might hear the words with our actual ears, with our hearts we can deeply reflect, discern, and take action if necessary.

When we are an embryo, the sound perceiving mechanism of the ear is the first organ we develop. During the same time, our heart also starts to develop (5 weeks after conception). Imagine! At 18 weeks in the womb, one of our first sensations of life is the inner sound of our own and our mother’s heartbeat. Studies have shown that a baby will become agitated if its mother’s heartbeat beats faster than normal, suggesting its mother is under stress. We also begin life listening to the rise and fall of our mother’s breath, our parents’ muffled voices, the world outside.

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