Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The dance of the internal and external other

It can be fascinating (and disturbing) to see how we locate qualities in others that we long to be in touch with in ourselves, but for some reason have disowned.

It is no coincidence that we tend to attract and be attracted to (as well as repel and be repelled by) those who outwardly embody a particular quality that we've lost contact with in ourselves. This can be subtle and can take some practice and discernment to see.

At an earlier developmental time, for very good reasons we split off from certain aspects of ourselves, ways of being, feelings, native creativity, and qualities that were unique to us. While we yearn to reclaim these lost soul-parts, it is often too anxiety-provoking to allow them back in directly. By first finding them in another, we can begin to enter into relationship with these abandoned parts, in what appears to be a safer way, at a distance.

Whenever you find yourself surprised at how enraged you become toward a certain person, or activated by some way that they are – or infatuated with them in a way that seems irrational, or annoyed or irritated beyond what seems appropriate for the situation... slow down and pay careful attention.

Be kind to yourself. Be curious. No shame, blame, or judgment. Just slow. And kind. And curious. Again, look for responses that are irrational, overblown, and seem to occur on their own, out of the blue, in a surge of unexpected emotion. We’re not speaking about becoming angry and taking clear, boundaried action if someone is being unkind, abusive, or disrespectful to you – please do that – but about those situations where nothing like that is occurring.

Where in more neutral situations, before you know it, you're drowning in some sort of reaction, whether it be a flood of ruminative thinking or you are hooked into a painful (yet familiar) emotion or feeling. Or lashing out at them, critiquing, judging, attacking (or idolizing, turning them into a savior, irrationally falling in love with them) in a way that, on deeper reflection, just feels a bit overdone. It can feel like it’s coming at us from the outside, some energy which is autonomous and beyond our control.

What qualities in others (positive or negative) have an uncanny ability to throw you into a spin, constellate an avalanche of highly charged feeling, uncomfortable emotion, or surges of somatic disturbance in your body? Slowly, if you are called to do so, bring a person to mind who has a way of inducing these reactions in you...

For just a moment, set aside any interpretation of what might be happening and any details about the "other." Open and see if "internal other" is arising now to be held, to be known, to be contained, to be integrated.

What is being asked to be tended to here? What has the "external" other come to remind you of, not to harm or to seduce, but as an emissary of wholeness? As an invitation of integration.

Enter into relationship with this one, imagine and dialogue with them, provide sanctuary so that they may re-emerge into the light, and to take his or her rightful place back into the internal family. This one is you, longing for permission to return home.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. Please stay tuned here for additional information/ registration.