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Posts Tagged ‘Trauma’

Curve Ball

Curve Ball

When we’re floating along the calm ocean of spiritual experience we imagine it to be plain sailing all the way. We are mistaken. When we reach a plateau of Awareness and inner peace we believe it to be the summit. It isn’t. When we’ve hit lots of home runs and are confident of our spiritual strike rate, we are suddenly taken aback by a curve ball. And so it was last Tuesday! I’d better explain.

For the past two summers I’ve ‘suffered’ from a chapped and often cracked lower lip Initially my local doctor, said nothing to worry about and gave me a hydrocortisone cream to settle it down, which it did for a few weeks. It didn’t last, so I resigned myself to the fluctuations of a lip problem that was probably minor in nature.

Until last week that is when my doctor sent me to a dermatologist who within seconds diagnosed my lower lip as a victim of a precancerous skin condition. In  her pristine white coat and emotionless face she delivered her conclusions with cold efficiency. My poor wee psyche was stunned, spluttering a few irrelevant questions in her direction to try to gain a foothold in my quickly vanishing inner equilibrium.

Being a bit of a hypochondriac, a story in itself, I was programmed to hear doctors proclaim, ‘Nothing to worry about Dylan’. This time the old tapes didn’t roll, replaced instead by a clinician’s non-bedside pronouncement. After hearing the gory details of what non-treatment could result in, I was referred to a maxilla-facial surgeon here in Lincoln, who would more than likely recommend an innocent sounding procedure known innocuously as a lip shave!. it is a misnomer – the removal of my lower lip’s surface layer of skin and the creation of a new lip by stretching excess skin from within my mouth to create a new smiling me.

On the way out my dermatologist friend finally added a ‘nothing to worry about Mr Morrison’, as she handed me a tick box form to record my irrelevant impressions of my consultation experience. Too late the damage was done. My old sub-personalities who see death behind every lamp-post had kicked in, transmitting pictures of a grieving Zan  and a  whining wee black doggy frantically looking for her departed master. Oh, the power of fear! It truly is awful in its vice-like grip on our sense of being.

A week later, I’ve regained some sort of perspective on my new pre-cancerous friends living on my lower lip. They are messengers – transmitters of a call to growth and healing. How bizarre that a prodigal prophet should have his lips tell him something isn’t right. Sounds like a bit of a sick Cosmic joke, but there it is for all to see. Time to break camp, leave behind my spiritual ease and take the next climb up Jacob’s ladder, that stairway to heaven that leaves no stone unturned.

I’m listening to my body and the inner wisdom that I believe is there for all of us to tap into. As I seek to journey into my core Self, frantic, fearful little messages try to knock me off course with threats of an early demise. Flap as they will, this is a time for growth, for an expansion of consciousness, for a new awareness of how much we shy away from our destiny as images of Divine Love. So, I’m listening and waiting. All is well and shall be well, is my mantra of choice to steady the ship of my fragile psyche-soul, as we navigate the unknown seas that stretch out before me. To be honest, I was expecting such a catalyst to further growth and the healing of old memories that lie within. Recently, I’ve had a number of incidents with ‘officialdom’ of various shades, that have released an anger deep within me that I thought had been dealt with a while back. I should have known that Divine Love, the surgeon of my soul would come along and do a lip enhancement, to remove the roots of anger that so easily sharpen my words for war.

My desire is to open all to the prescriptive gaze of both Self and Source. I’m seeing it all as a rollercoaster ride, with its ups and downs but one that will serve me well. My good friend and zen student, Matthew Sammut, has encouraged me to write of my journey through this little Shadow Valley in order to encourage others. Either all our God talk and spiritual experiences help us or they don’t. I choose to go within, to a realm more real than the clinician’s black and white pronouncements. There I hope to hear the messages waiting for me on my inner Voicemail. The roots of my anger and damaged lip, and the Wisdom to do what needs to be done.

I’d value all your prayers and healing energies along the way. Let’s see what Divine Love conjures up from the curve ball pitched at my mouth. Hopefully a more authentic and compassionate Irishman whose words heal and restore rather than wound his fellow-man.

Blessings to you all

❤ Dylan

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Families ~ Blessing Or Curse?

Families ~ Blessing Or Curse?

Families, you either love them or hate them! We all have them to some extent and what’s more we didn’t choose them or did we? But more of that later in the series. Due to the human birthing process, in all its wondrously gory glory, we have a mother, father and if fertility and finances allow a few siblings.

So let’s start with the parents, ladies first! Our mother has carried us for up to 9 months before the big day, the day of our emergence into this somewhat crazy, space-time world. Without realising it, a lot of subliminal womb-centred  interaction has been going on between the developing me and my mother. The latest scientific studies seem to suggest that mother and baby share a lot more than blood and essential nutrients. Unknowingly the lady in question appears to be laying down an emotional imprint our her own feelings and state of mind to the little absorber within. It all makes sense to me now, after discovering that my dear mum conceived me out-of-wedlock back in the 1950s of  Presbyterian Northern Ireland. Oh the shame, for a nice little church girl like her to bear in the puritanical atmosphere that undoubtedly surrounded her. It explains the hidden, quiet aspects of my nature and the over-riding desire to explain myself to others. But enough of my own inner blue-print. If each of us could examine the psycho-spiritual state of our mom during pregnancy we’d more than likely see a reflection of our fractured Self, the collective of sub-personalities that give us our personality.

May I suggest that the initial fracturing of our developing psyche begins in the womb, in those miraculous nine months of darkness and maternal connection. The umbilical cord may transfer much more than life’s essential constituents in its downward flow. During the heightened and somewhat terrifying state of pregnancy our mother often finds one of her own sub-personalities coming to her rescue. It provides the strength to get through the seemingly endless period of gestation. Is it any wonder that we may switch to its generational clone for assistance as we face life’s pressures.

Of course, motherhood is , in a utopian world, the source of nurture and unconditional love, the greenhouse that propagates the well-rounded child and hence the well-rounded adult. I stress utopian for, as we all know, mothers are only human, albeit some more human than others! All mothers face an uphill struggle to maintain the flow of love without demand in the face of exhaustion, and a loss of Self. Absentee fathers, either physical or emotionally, leave the poor lady with a Herculean task. It’s no wonder that they slip up from time to time causing a little self-protective tweak to our sensitive psyche-soul. All memories of withdrawal are noted and a protective sub-personality birthed as a result. May I suggest that our mother is the most important sculptor of our psycho-spiritual health. ‘Your just like your mother,’ is more than a male chauvinist slur; it can inadvertently hold a nugget of truth  for  all of us, whether male or female.

Mothers do a great job in general, though some don’t. These tragic cases only pass on their dysfunctional psycho-spiritual traits to their wounded offspring and so the downward spiral of generational flaws continue. Major trauma and its aftermath play havoc with both mother and child. It’s just the way it is in this space-time bubble. The problem is compounded when the mother in question cannot let go of her ‘nurturing’ role in later life. Operating in the dearth of authentic Self, a mom can cling to her mother identity like some badge of honor, a maternal Linus blanket to keep the demons of insignificance at bay. The seeds of psychological dysfunction sown in pregnancy, usually pop us as relational breakdown in the later stages of life when adult children break away to avoid the suffocating atmosphere of a mother, well past her sell-by date. It sounds cruel and uncaring but the new adult must get away for the sake of their own identity, away from the mummy’s little darling apron strings of a lady in crisis.

So what of moms? Well, at their best they are reflections of the Divine Feminine, the Nurturing Spirit of creativity and wholeness. A good mother is worth her weight in gold. A woman to be honored and cherished, albeit from a safe distance as time moves on. The primal bond of motherhood can be a continuing channel of generous authentication or a chain to stop us leaving. Discernment and compassion are required for we are dealing with the soul of a woman who has banked her all on her offspring. Only Divine Love can safely lead both mother and child into their individual destinies, an authentication of Self from beyond, a detachment of all that seemed so critical in the wondrous days of childhood.

In my next Blog, I’ll look at the role of fathers in our psycho-spiritual development. Best ask my son, Zac, what he thinks before I write it!

I’m dedicating this wee Blog to my dear departed mum, Elizabeth, a wonderful, if somewhat stoical woman, who protected me from the shame of men, until the day she died. Till then mum. ❤

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Home

Home

 

Someone once said ‘Home is where the heart is!’. For the first 54 years of my life that home was the little seaside town of Ballybrigg in Northern Ireland – but no longer! Please let me explain.

Raised as an Ulster Presbyterian, later to become a somewhat zealous member of a Charismatic Christian sect, I always felt completely at ease with the religion-political ethos that hangs over this beautiful little piece of God’s green Earth. Even the rain and the predictable, grey skies, mixed with the nightly news of murder and  spiralling atrocities didn’t shake my conviction that I was at home. I felt totally secure in the bubble of  my small tribe, one that believed itself to be a little  special in the eyes of the great Creator.

That is until two dramatic events changed my life forever. The sudden death of my 5 month old baby son, Ben, back in 1984, was the first seismic shift that turned my cosy inner world upside down. It launched me on my journey of freedom from the pseudo-safe belief system of my sect of choice. Nothing would be the same again, especially in the realm of religious devotion and group commitment.

The second shift in my sense of belonging was my stress burnout back in 2004, when I walked out voiceless from my place of work, an educational microcosm aka a school, for the very last time on a dull winter’s afternoon. Later, lying in my bed and weeping like a baby and doubting my sanity, I knew that another Linus blanket had been ripped from my grasping hands. I was no longer, Dylan Morrison, the Math teacher and pastoral Year Head. I was just Dylan, the broken man, drifting on the ocean of shattered dreams.

In hindsight, both these ego shattering events were the final two nails in my Northern Irish coffin. Paradoxically, a sense of psycho-spiritual claustrophobia slowly smothered me during my slow but sure recovery from my breakdown or ‘breakthrough’. I sensed that I no longer belonged and could not continue with the mask of conformity within the middle class environs of my pervading Protestant culture. Something was dysfunctional and I felt it, for the first time in my Ulster sojourn.

Of course my sudden departure from Ballybrigg, back in July 2009 still took me by surprise. Having bought a small apartment in Lincoln, England as a holiday home, on the spur of the moment, during a visit to see my son Zac, I didn’t expect that it was to become my new home and the birthplace of a new blogging and writing career. Yes, the Divine can step up the pace when it needs to. One minute we’re there and now we are here!

Last week, as I returned to Ballybrigg to attend my sister’s wedding and deal with some outstanding property matters, I  was apprehensive to say the least. Yet I needn’t have been concerned. For as I drove down to Ballybrigg from Belfast Airport, I felt a deep detached sort of peace within. On the outside nothing had changed in the five years since my departure; no new development, the same triumphalist wall murals on the working class gable walls. It could easily have been June 30th 2009, when I drove out of Ballybrigg in the opposite direction for our short holiday in England.

I sensed a bubble of sorts surrounding and protecting me from the cultural memories, people and persons that threatened to knock my new psychic equilibrium for six. It just didn’t happen. My time was enjoyable in a quiet, contained sort of way, my contact with old friends and family extramely encouraging. Even my visit to my dead son’s little grave was ok. As I stared at his little moss marked, sullied gravestone I wanted to shed a tear but couldn’t. I just seemed so detached and apart from this scene of  past burial and fervent prayer. A husk of memories remained, but ones without the  bitter sting of bygone years. Surprising myself, I quickly jumped into my car and headed off to meet the living. The shocking truth was that my wee son Ben, no longer touched me on that barren grave-filled, Ballybrigg hillside. Both he and I had moved on.

So will I return? Yes, if I have to for social or business reasons. Will I be rushing back, hankering for the old ways, the tribal dances of the Ulster Scots and Catholic Nationalists. No. In my soul, I am now an observer of these tribes, the blood of a more distant country running through my veins. A transfusion of sorts has taken place. My life now flows from another realm, one only observable by the inner eye of spirit sight. A place where tears are wiped away and distilled into the essence of a felt transcendent joy, an all-consuming ocean of Divine Love; the place I now call Home.

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Heading back

Heading Back

Well, it’s nearly upon me. My unavoidable return to my home town of Ballybrigg that is, after having lived in the relative psycho-spiritual freedom of Lincoln, England for the last 5 years. After escaping the religion-political tribal mix that permeates my old homeland, I’m heading back to attend my wee sister’s wedding, an amazing tale in itself that I’ll share with you all some time.

I guess it’s a bit like a ex-combatant returning to the battlefield that scared him for life. The wounds are healed to a large extent but the memories still remain. At times my previous life in Northern Ireland seems like a dream, at other times it appears in nightmare form, though thankfully these nocturnal replays are now few and far between. I’ll meet up with a few safe friends and relatives, eat, drink and be merry at the wedding and observe how my body feels in the somewhat claustrophobic environs of Ballybrigg, the town where nothing seems to change as the locals happily sleep walk through life.

My wee son Ben is buried there in a municipal graveyard on the outskirts of town. I guess I will go pay him a visit and shed a tear for a life shortened by the mystery of cot-death. Standing on the wind-swept hillside of the Irish burial ground will bring back many memories. My prayer over his little white coffin as I committed him to the God of my 1984 belief system. The handful of Irish dirt that I through on his lowered coffin, reminding me of the fickleness and transience of this space-time existence.

Of course in hindsight I see that Ben’s short life and unexpected death proved to be the painful catalyst for my escape from my sect of choice. Without the tragic events of that cold, January afternoon, I wouldn’t be sitting today in this English coffee shop and writing about my impending return to my homeland; like many inhabitants of Ballybrigg, I would never have left the cultural whirlpool of evangelical religious belief and political smugness.

I’ll be visiting my old family home that has been rented out to a lovely lady called Janet. Apparently the garage is crammed full of my old furniture and stuff that men tend to accumulate over the years. The ping-pong table where my son Zac and I spent many hours, honing his skills for competitive tournament play. The tables and chairs that were the focal point of our dining room, where we regularly worked our way through the pain of religious burn out over Zan’s beautiful home-cooked meals. The memories will come flooding in but the time has come in the Divine plan, for me to return and face my old haunts.

Life is so full of circles. Perhaps, as my Eastern friends suggest, existence itself is one big circle. Anyway, most of us usually have to return to the place of previous joys and pain in order to recognise how much we’ve changed and to what extent we’ve been healed and grown closer to the Light.

So, if you are the praying type I’d deeply appreciate your prayers for a ‘successful’ trip. For those of you who’re into healing energies, please send as much as possible. My short time in Ballybrigg ought to be interesting. Hopefully, I’ll spot one like the Son Of Man walking with me in my psycho-spiritual, Irish version of the ‘Fiery Furnace’.

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Angry Birds

Angry Birds

Let me start by making two bold assertions.

1) Many of us on the spiritual Journey are, at times, sanctified, little versions of Angry Birds.

2) Anger is a valid and extremely useful emotion for all who seek to walk in Love.

I’d better explain.

Anger is a primeval facility wired within our central nervous system whereby we regain our inner space once it has been crossed by an unwelcome other. It is the alarm bell and emergency response to a psycho-spiritual incursion all rolled into one.

Without anger there’s nothing to stop another soul from encroaching upon our inner holy of holies without repercussions. It’s our first line of defense in letting another know that we’re not happy bunnies, those willing to lie down and let an intruder take something precious that belongs to us.

Anger is designed to be a short, sharp defensive measure, a self-regulating one that ought to get the message across without permanent or lasting emotional damage. Once our other gets the message a more satisfactory re-establishment of boundaries may be negotiated.

So how come we religio-spiritual types are often little, Angry Birds?

Well, I believe that below the beatific smiles of our public, spiritual persona there lies trapped emotions and energies, one of which is often anger. Such energies require expression and release. They need to complete the journey plotted out for them by our internal powers of recovery. If they can’t be freed from the cellar of our lower unconscious they’ll manifest in other more demanding ways viz depression and physical illness, particularly muscular, tendon or nerve related pain.

Anger is one of our normal human emotions often frozen by the adoption of our spiritual stance subsequent to a conversion or enlightenment experience. In such a dramatic change of Self perception we often get a glimpse of the real us, that spirit spark placed within by Divine Love. Such a radical change of perception can keep us going for a while along the newly travelled spiritual path but eventually our inner world of the lower unconscious will need examination and airing. Thankfully Spirit Breath gives us time to settle into our new way of life before the Divine Spring-cleaning begins in earnest.

Much of our trapped anger was cut short and frozen in childhood or infancy. A slap across the thighs in the isle of a supermarket by our frustrated and indeed angry mother may have shocked us into a state of emotional paralysis. Years later, this cut short anger, lies dormant in the freezer of our  inner self.

Other frozen angers have their origin within the religious or spiritual life. In the intense cauldron of faith or spiritual communities many lines are regularly crossed. In some cases this in done intentionally, as in abusive groups, in others it is as a result of a false interpretation of the family of God. In religious or spiritual mindsets, where our oneness is overemphasized, to the detriment of our unique sense of Self, many inter-personal infringements can occur that automatically trigger our psychological defense mechanisms.

Our conscious mind, not wanting to appear disruptive or even more unacceptable, unloving, shuts down the outward expression of our psychic response force. Locked away and repressed in the lower unconscious, misinterpreted as a sin of the flesh, our far from dead anger begins to find an alternative route of expression and escape. The intense energy has to go somewhere and often does.

By definition most faith or spiritual mindsets rule out a valid and controlled channel for the resolution of psychic or indeed physical boundary incidents. The holy writings of many groups suggest practical ways to address such issues but in practice the pressure to conform and be a loving member who doesn’t rock the boat, takes psychic precedence.

In other words I’m suggesting that we spiritual types may be a lot angrier than we realise; we’re good at smothering our inner vexation by appearing to detach from our animal hard-wiring and going into freeze mode.

In my next post I’ll look at how leaving a faith or spiritually community can open our personal can of angry worms.

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Body Stuff

Body Stuff

In my last post I looked at the tri-partite nature of what seems to be us, viz. body, psyche-soul, and spirit.

Today I want to talk about the body, that much maligned part of us that gets such a hard time from some streams of religion thought. So let me turn the tables on such a misperception of the our physical manifestation.

I guess that St.Pauls use of the term ‘the flesh’ has got us into this anti-body thing within the subliminal systems of much Christian belief and practice. I reckon that he was referring to the dysfunctional ego or wounded psyche-soul, but the Egyptian Ascetics quickly became the Model for authentic spirituality as they attempted to find God through the subjugation of the body and its supposedly evil desires.

Followers of the Nazarene have been plagued with this pseudo-gnostic take on the body  throughout the last two millennia, causing much self torment and pain along the Way.

I see our material form as a living tabernacle, a helper rather than a hindrance. When restored into the alignment of Spirit flow it becomes an invaluable part of our space-time experience, as much a part of Me as our psyche or spirit spark. It is here for a reason and not a mistake as some spiritual traditions would have us believe. Certainly it is limited and transitory but it is an invaluable friend as it carries our conscious Self through life.

One of the body’s greatest gifts to us is its early warning system. The central nervous system is an amazing phenomenon with its autonomic responses that kick in before conscious thought gets a chance to catch up. Such a wonderful early warning system can be a blessing and a curse, at least from our limited vantage point. This sublime sensory network of nerve endings serves a multifaceted purpose, one of the most important being the receptor and interpreter of outer and inner presence.

For those of us who have experienced an overwhelming sense of Other at certain times in our sojourn, the central nervous system has played an important role. The shivers or goosebumps that came out of nowhere, the changed breathing, have all been transmitted to our consciousness by our inner wiring. All our sensory feelings of Divine Love and Presence have flowed through our internal friend, conveying the safety of surrender to the Source of All.

However, the central nervous system is also vital for our survival and linked to our older animal instincts. Ultra sensitive to our outer world, our automatic responses to threat are triggered by our inner early warning system.

Here, I am indebted to the work of Dr Peter Levine and his studies on the parallels between animal and human responses to threat and subsequent trauma. Levine suggests that our autonomic reactions fall into one of five categories.

1) Arrest

When we stop what we’re doing and observe.

2) Flight

We get out of our threat filled environment ASAP.

3) Fight

Not being able to escape we decide that we have a fair chance of survival if we retaliate to the onslaught of our perceived threat.

4) Freeze

Our secondary body functions shut down, trapping our fight or flight energies in the central nervous system

5) Fold

Here we play dead, allowing the other to have their way with us in the hope of ultimate survival.

May I suggest that many of our supposed psychological or spiritual problems are in fact due to the experience of past trauma and one or more of the above autonomic responses. Simply put, the memory of trauma isn’t simply conceptual but a stored energy problem, one that cries out for release. Once the trapped bodily dynamic  is released the memories, lying within the psyche lose their power.

Perhaps many cognitive based counselling and therapy techniques are cases of putting the conceptual horse before the bodily horse. I wonder.

When I look again at Yeshua’s exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac I see an amazing release of pent-up energy at work, metaphorically described as a nearby herd of pigs rushing to their deaths over a nearby cliff. The result? One now sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, wishing to join up with the Nazarene’s motley band of followers.

The demoniac, nicknamed Legion, had clearly suffered trauma in his past life, a trauma that debilitated him to such an extent that he took to living among the dead. My theologian friend, Dr Gary Burnett, of Union Theological College, Belfast suggests that the demoniac’s childhood observations of historical, mass crucifixions in the Gadara area, those carried out by a retaliating Roman Legion, may well have been the source of  his painful psycho-spiritual predicament. An impressionable youngster who experiences the horrific sights and sounds of such barbaric killings can’t help but be traumatized.

But who knows? Gary’s ideas would certainly would tie in with Levine’s theory of trapped debilitating trauma; a trauma that was released by the demoniac coming into mimesis with the trauma free Nazarene.

The physical  manifestations of the exorcism process are certainly compatible with the shaking, tremors and involuntary limb movements of recovering, traumatized animals. Perhaps we’re more animal than we’d like to acknowledge in our concept based  world that we identify as reality.

In my next post I’ll look at how our stored traumas may give birth to the ego and its defensive postures.

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