That gentle man does not exist But hold the gasps And think on this - The savage man you see Is also lacking purity
*(Just a heads-up: My Inner Critic’s voice is mocking and hurtful (especially in the Inner Dialogue Exercise). Putting this warning up in case you are trying to avoid that sort of energy right now.)*
The last couple of months have brought some big life changes. One of the largest being I moved. Another big life change was my counsellor had a session ( I wasn’t there) with my parents, which opened my eyes to a new reality for our relationship. My parents seem certain that they have no role to play in the dynamics of our relationship. They are willing to “help me” with “whatever I am feeling”, but see it as having nothing to do with them. They say they are very confused by it all. They think I should not be upset now or upset about the past, they think my problem is I won’t “accept the truth”. Of course they don’t usually say it as straightforward as that, but that is the general message. I was left feeling invisible and wrong for the emotions I have. And I saw, finally, that I needed to pull back from the relationship. In truth there has never been much of a relationship, and in all likelihood there never will be. The realizations were painful and upsetting, and especially difficult as I was also in the stressful process of moving.
A New Space For Growth
As I’ve pulled away from my parents, I’ve gotten more space to feel my own feelings. I’ve come to see how alone and isolated I’ve always been in life. These last couple of months have felt like a descent into a mysterious depth, where I now feel stuck. But stuck isn’t really the best word for where I am. Maybe it’s more like some hurting side of me is finally stepping fully forward now. This hurting side of me feels a new safety forming in the growing distance between me and my family. This hurting part of me is right at the surface now, and it’s disorienting and painful, and hard to function and take care of all my responsibilities. The weight and intensity of the hurting part’s feelings feels strong enough to shatter me from the inside out. To destroy me. I feel such an inner pressure.
But I do not believe this hurting part is trying to destroy me. I believe it is seeking help. It is starting to trust that I, my real self, may actually try to listen and help it. And she is right. I am determined this time to figure out how to help her – to listen, to believe, and to try not to judge. However this feels like a near impossible task, because there is another side of me that appears slicker, smarter and more powerful than this hurting side of me, and that is my Inner Critic.
Inner Critic Part/Emotionally Hurting Part
I am observing the emotional hurting side of me is held in like a hostage. It seems so clear to me I am in therapy to get the hurting side of me help, yet she is almost never allowed to speak during my sessions. It’s nonsensical, but feels largely out of my control. During this healing process, I have found an Inner Parent part of me. My Inner Parent speaks with a comforting and loving voice. And I can only assume my Inner Parent is who sought out therapy for my hurting part.
Yet I am observing over and over that when the intensely hurting part comes to the surface, my Inner Parent goes completely missing. I can not access it anymore. And instead of being met by the Inner Parent the hurting part instantly faces the Inner Critic. It’s as if the mere appearance of the hurting part, is the cue for my inner system to get the Inner Critic side online. The Inner Critic presents itself and simply sounds to me like the voice of “the truth/logic/reality”. It has an objective air. Yet when I listen deeply, or imagine it as a 3rd party speaking to me , I hear the Inner Critic’s voice as invalidating, mocking, harsh, threatening, and pressuring. I hear hate.
Furthermore I’ve observed that as my emotionally hurting part feels more and more overwhelmed, upset, or alone the Inner Critic becomes more and more aggressive and hateful. Sometimes it may appear as if the Inner Critic is trying to “get me help”, but it’s in such a frustrated way. It brings the hurting part of me to therapy with an attitude of “What is WRONG with YOU!”. It sounds like: “Can anyone fix this useless stupid emotional person. Give her a diagnosis or something, she won’t just shut up and be happy. She should be happy. She is annoying everyone! Bringing everyone down.”
My Inner Critic keeps my hurting side largely silent to the world and somehow silent even to myself (a large part of this silence is I do not recognize my feelings as my own. It’s like I don’t feel my own feelings.) I do not fully understand how the hurting part is silenced, maybe it is through fear of embarrassment or shame. However it seems that unless my hurting side finds a voice (whether it’s to me, my therapist, or someone else), it is unlikely to receive help from anyone.
An Inner Dialogue Exercise: Giving My Hurting Side A Voice
The emotionally hurting side of me has been very intense and at the surface recently and I recognize it must get help. I did the following exercise a few days ago in an attempt to get some clarity on what was going on inside the emotional hurting part of me. In this exercise I observed how difficult it is for the emotional part of me to speak and be heard. Not because she is silent or has nothing to say, but rather because the moment she starts to speak the Inner Critic shows up and starts speaking over her in an argumentative and aggressive manner. This is an example of what that Inner Dialogue sounds like in my mind:
Emotional Side: So, I am really hurting. What I need help with is….
Critic: (Interrupts) Haha, so many have had it so much worse than you. What a joke!
Emotional Side: Yeah, I know, I’m just focusing on healing my heart right now.
Critic: Of what! You are always so dramatic and self focused
Emotional Side: (trying to just ignore it and speak) Um, so when I was a little girl
Critic: You are still such a little girl…it’s pathetic. Everyone thinks it.
Emotional Side: (getting upset now) Um so, when I was younger, um, my family was always miserable, no love or tenderness or joy was really ever shown to anyone from anyone and
Critic: That’s everyone’s story…you’re being dramatic
Emotional Side: Please stop! Why are you doing this! (continued begging to stop)
Critic: More evidence you are dramatic. Just stop, this is stupid.You are embarrassing yourself.
Emotional Side: Just let me talk
Critic: About what? Your “trauma’
Emotional Side: About what I love, what I want
Critic: How cute…
Emotional Side: I love people. They are all so mysterious. I love nature, music, art, and poetry. I love being together with all this beautiful whatever we are. But my favorite thing by far is people.
Critic: Wow, ever looked around. People are horrible. Destroying the earth. You can’t trust any of them. Name anyone, I can make you turn on them. All are hurtful and ugly. They hide in darkness who they really are.
Emotional Side: Humans are a world unto themselves. Mystery and beauty. All mixed together.
Critic: Sorry, but look at the world
Emotional Side: Why are you doing this!
Critic: It’s true
Emotional Side: Who are you? Tell me your past
Critic: I don’t have one
Emotional Side: Yeah you do. You seem to “know” so much.
Critic: ………I just know they are ugly. I’ve seen.
Emotional Side: Seen what? I’ve seen beauty, mixed, but beauty. Like all of nature, it’s mixed. I love flowers in spring, but when the plant turns brown and dries up and sits ugly in the garden. I don’t give up hope for the flowers or reject the beauty I saw. The plant has beauty, that still stands. Each person is like that I think. A mixed bag, the ugly doesn’t negate the beautiful.
Critic: But the beauty doesn’t negate the ugly either
Emotional Side: True. But I feel I can love what I see. I do love what I see. I mean I certainly am just like all of that. A mixed bag. I think you are trying to protect me from the ugly side, because it can hurt. But I think I’m building myself up to be able to face it better. I’m learning new ways of thinking and understanding.
Critic: It won’t last. You always come crawling back to me. You will be torn apart.
Emotional Side: Maybe, but the beauty’s been real. And I’m curious why do you think I come back to you? What are you providing?
Critic: I take care of you. You are naive. You think they love you. No one does. It’s interesting though, because you do love them. But I often convince you that your love is broken to protect you. It’s easier for you to take the blame then to hear the truth – no one loves you.
Emotional Side: Do you love me?
Critic: Yes, Of course.You’re beautiful.
Emotional Side: (Overwhelmed, crying) … I didn’t know that. I thought I was broken, a problem.
Critic: I know, I’m sorry, it felt necessary.
Emotional Side: Is it still necessary?
Critic: Less so. But you’ll be scared.
Emotional Side: Okay, I am scared.
Critic: That’s okay. I’ll try to be easier on you. We can build on your passions. I know you enjoy them.
Emotional Side: Thanks, it’s been really hard hasn’t it? Being so alone, loving everyone so much, but seeing so much misery. Feeling powerless, and powerful all at once. Intensity and emotions in secrecy. The loneliness and confusion.
Critic: Yes, it’s been hard. We were placed in a line of trauma.
Emotional Side: Thank you so much for validating that. It has been hard. But I’m here to start changing that aren’t I?
Critic: Yes. Your parents contributed some, and you are going to take that and run for you children.
Emotional Side: Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I want. But I’m so worried, I know I’m struggling with all these changes and new ways of being. Living love and living trust is so hard. I’m very afraid.
Critic: That all makes sense. I’m very proud of you already though. And others are too, even if they don’t have the words to say it. This is a beautiful task, just the picking it up, it will mean something to your children.
Emotional Side: I worry it won’t, that I’m lying to myself. That maybe I should be doing something else. Just like the feeling I’m not doing enough. How do I balance self care and care for them?
Critic: You are figuring it out, keep going. This is hard.
Emotional Side: I’m so surprised to see you turned motivator. Is this really the Inner Critic not the Inner Parent?
Critic: I think we might be the same figure. Maybe in different settings. We both want the same thing at least, to keep you safe.
Emotional Side: So I was safe being attacked by you?
Critic: Yes, I thought the environment was not safe for you.
Emotional Side: My parents are not safe?
Critic: They don’t do it to hurt you. But yes, they are not safe. Not until you gain more strength in yourself.
Emotional Side: Is it safe now? (The new space away from them)
Emotional Side: But you still attack me, shame me?
Critic: I am nervous too.
Emotional Side: (laughing) You do sound like a parent.
Critic: I am.
Emotional Side: Well, maybe seeing this side of you will help me handle your rants better. I can recognize you are nervous and doubting as opposed to certain. You aren’t the voice of truth, more a voice of worries about my safety.
Critic: Hopefully we will figure it out. I don’t want to tear you down. Only keep you safe, The beautiful, good, and true.
Emotional Side: But I’m ugly too right?
Critic: Yep, like everyone else.
Emotional Side: But we grow the beauty I guess, enjoy it, seek it out, nourish it, encourage it?
Critic: That makes sense to me. But honestly, I’m not passionate and emotional like you are. That’s all you. I just sit back and enjoy it. You are the beautiful, good, and true.
Interesting Take Aways
I was basing that write up off an inner dialogue I had a few days ago. But as I wrote it up from memory, it started taking a new turn and I went with it. I feel I learned something big here. I have never seen my Inner Critic be so kind. I’m sort of left speechless and unsure. Did the Inner Parent take over or was that really the Critic? Or are they really the same? Maybe the Inner Parent voice I thought of as “new” from this healing journey was really just the “new goal” of the Inner Critic. Maybe the Inner Critic has been learning and growing alongside all the other parts of me this whole time. I’m really not sure. I’ll have to give this time to sink in and reflect. But I definitely felt an inner ally inside, one I’m not used to.
More Reflections Given More Time:
- I feel when the Inner Critic speaks of “others”, it is referring to my family of origin as opposed to the world at large. Which makes sense if the Inner Critic part was formed in childhood.
- It would be nice if the Inner Critic praised me more often. It seems to see a good side of the emotional me, but rarely does it ever speak in a proud or supportive way. I need to practice encouraging and supporting myself, and also actually accepting my own encouragement and praise.
- The more I reflect, with adult eyes, on how my Inner Critic tends to speak the more I see the dynamics of my family growing up through a different lens. I’ve always “sided” with my father. And by that I mean I’ve seen reality through his eyes for most of my life. He was the hero. However, as I am gaining strength and gaining my own perspective, I am starting to see the past actions and words of my father in a new light. Something about the tone and attitude of the Inner Critic strikes me as very similar to how he treated my mother when I was growing up. His past actions and words I used to view as having “protected” me or himself now appear (whether intended to or not) incredibly harmful to our family. They seem inappropriate and disproportionate. It’s a lot to process, and I am in the thick of that now.
(Written in May)
Beginning to Process A Heavy Mood
I am currently processing and being with one of my heaviest moods. This emotional state I get into seems to be one of the most disconnected from my more unified sense of self. Coping skills that work brilliantly for other moods, seem to make this mood worse. There is a distrusting, aggressive, and mocking attitude it seems to possess towards what feels like “me”.
It feels like this mood descends on me quite frequently, and probably has most of my life. The mood has a teenage feel to it, and I suspect it was during my teenage years when I first started experiencing this mood. I probably lived more of life in this mood in the past. However I may have been unable to see it as clearly as I do now, since I did not have as much joy and peace to compare it too. It is the intense reappearance and struggle with this mood that led me to attend counseling again.
I don’t understand what sets it off yet. But it comes on suddenly and it feels heavy and empty. In that emotional mood I feel nothing towards people who I know I love. And that upsets me and angers me. But the mood doesn’t care, doesn’t care about anything or anyone. And definitely doesn’t care what “I” think about it. Seems to hate me. Thinks I destroyed my life. And that there is no chance of any good outcomes. It tends to urge me to seek comfort in “nature”, who “won’t judge me/who loves me”. It has self-destructive urges, that disturb and frighten me. I try to encourage it, mention how many people wound be there to help it. It has a very mocking attitude. States they will help me for a day, and then be gone. I just feel so emptied out in this mood. Only grief and guilt about the past, and hopelessness and indifference towards the future.
I am trying to be patient with this emotion. And accept it as it is, even in its mocking and anger.
The only thing so far that does seem somewhat promising with the emotion is simply to gently tell it/remind it “It’s okay, you are okay, those you love are okay. It’s okay to feel this way. You are safe. Those you love are safe. It’s okay. You’re okay.” I felt a lifting in that, and it seemed to offer me a simple path forward to show kindness and support for myself. After softly whispering that out loud over and over, I felt the desire to have a cup of tea. I felt a lifting in all that, a being present, being less overwhelmed.
I don’t know what this mood is. And I don’t know why is descends on me. But I would like to address it, process it, hear it, and help it.
A Second Stage In Processing
(I believe this comment I left to a friend on WordPress in the thick of processing the heavy mood captures a shifting in my perspective towards the mood.)
(Written in May)
“I am in such an intense place recently. Really struggling with so many overwhelming emotions. I’m feeling it physically and mentally more than I’m used to. Struggling to function. But I’m hanging in there and reminding myself this is likely part of a loving freeing, finding, listening to, and being with my true self. She’s held so much in for so long, so much suppression.But as those inner forces that have been holding the real me down are lowered, I connect more and more with her in a deeper way and unlike in the past I’m not going to criticize or push her away now. Even if the left over of my old inner system of suppression rises up, to it believes protect me, I feel I know a better way now. It’s all okay. I’m okay. Even though I fear how I feel at moments in this anxiety, grief, guilt, helplessness, emptiness, and brain fog. It feels like I’m cycling quickly through intensity and numbness.
But I will not abandon her. Because I see more clearly now, who I really am, the natural intuitive sensitive me, is kind, smart, good, and loving. I or no one else has anything to fear from her. All she wants is to live as herself. And I believe that is what is best for her and everyone else. I am worthy to live my life as myself, we all are.”
A Third Stage in Processing
(Written In June)
I am still in a haze of sorts trying to stay with and work through this complex mood. I have come to suspect my Inner Critic is very much active within me against this mood. And I am realizing my frustration and impatience towards this mood isn’t helpful by any measures. It is a case of me giving myself, what I am used to receiving from my family of origin. But I believe I have come to know better than that now. I believe what is best for me and everyone around me is for me to listen to this mood and understand what it is trying to communicate to me.
I notice when I tried to take a more loving and calm stance with this mood, accepting it as how I am feeling and being gentle with myself and my “lack of functioning” right now, I felt a release of sorts. It seemed much of the intense feelings of self-hate, weakness, feeling life was unbearable, wasn’t actually coming from the mood itself it was coming from my Inner Critic’s judgment and view of the mood.
The inner critic side of me wants to see emotional strength and productivity in my day to day life. If I struggle emotionally or with my day to day tasks, it declares I am “pathetic” and “weak”. It seems I naturally believe those verdicts, and then fall further and further into a negative state. Or maybe it’s not so much I believe these judgements of the Inner Critic, but more I am torn down by them. To be vulnerable to one’s self, and be met with harsh judgements, does nothing to help build an understanding and work through a difficult emotion or establish peace and contentment within.
There is a sense even the “self destructive” thoughts that so disturb and upset me in this mood, are actually more coming from the Inner Critic’s frustration and hate towards the mood as opposed to the mood itself. It’s more like hearing “YOU have nothing to offer anyone, something is wrong with YOU” from someone you love as opposed to actually feeling that way yourself. It’s complex, but it was a relief to realize that it wasn’t so much life I can feel the urge to escape as much as this harsh inner voice that seems to value “me” only in terms of my ” functioning”, “productivity”, and “strength” and when I falter goes on a tirade against “me”.
Maybe at some point, this style of inner self talk was deemed necessary by my mind, but it feels wholly destructive to me and ironically destructive to my smooth functioning in life. I want peace from that voice, I need peace from that voice.
When I try to reflect on what the heavy mood itself is feeling before all the inner critic’s judgements and labels rise up, it is probably something like immense helplessness, loneliness, hopelessness and grief. If I imagine any other human feeling this way, I would not be proud treating them how my inner critic treats me. Who yells and demands productivity and displays of emotional strength to a human heart that is hurting. First one must listen, and I believe if I listen well and patiently, I will come to understand this mood. And somewhat naturally I will find myself showing her love, and with that healing and release for this part of me to shift her energy into a new direction in life. But first she must be heard, she knows something, and I need to hear it.
I turn inside with words Asking "Who am I?" I hear ricocheting replies Proclamations of strength Tearful helpless hurting Screams of rage spiraling destroying Whispers of my fears confirmed A panicky flow of words A loud mocking laugh A meek voice promising a flinching kindness A gentle confident voice reassuring love I am all of these I am none of these Besides the one asking "Who am I?" And the reply is - Choose!
I notice I freeze up often now. I feel confusion and pain. The urge to flee those I love grows more powerful by the day. Yet along with the urge to flee, grows the realization that fleeing was always and remains a delusional dream. I would be running away from what I seek, and towards a deeper pain than I now feel. I will not flee this time.
I will learn to more freely express my love and feel other’s love of me. This pain is a sign I am putting in the effort to learn and grow. Giving my full effort is all it is within my power to do.
The area I am currently struggling in, learning, is how to build a steadfast faith that those closest to me love me unconditionally. I do believe they love me unconditionally, whether they fully feel that love or not in any given moment. But rarely, or rather never, do I “feel”/experience their unconditional love. I don’t “feel” unconditionally loved. This lack of first hand experience/feeling leaves the belief super fragile. At the slightest perceived sign that maybe they don’t love me, my belief in their love of me is lost and I am left in doubt or maybe even believing they certainly do not love the real me. Being in the state of doubting their love or in the state of believing they do not love me is very painful to me. Other hurtful beliefs form in this state too – such as the belief I am simply unlovable.
How wonderful it would be if I could learn a steadfast faith in their unconditional love. I suspect it would open my eyes and heart to the signs of their love in my day to day life. I would “feel” what it feels like to be loved. A reality I am largely blind to now. This seeing and feeling of their love for me would be a wonderful and healing experience for me. But not only would it be wonderful for me, I suspect it would be wonderful for them as well. We all love to see others feel secure and at peace within our love. It helps build up our faith in the goodness and power of our love.
A steadfast faith in their love may also allow me to more accurately understand their actions and words. I believe this is crucially important for myself and my loved ones too. I believe I have often misunderstand their words and actions as being about me when in reality they are about them. I believe my loved ones and I are all on the same team. A team bonded in love. But each of us have our own struggles, and each of us share many of the same struggles. Some close to me find it difficult to express their love (as do I), some fear being unloved or unlovable (as do I), some fear being vulnerable (as do I), some are confused about themselves (their desires, motives, feelings, etc.) (as am I).
These struggles confuse the individual who experiences them. The struggles cause pain, they are past wounds within the individual and they continue to wound the individual. The pain and confusion of these struggles can lead one to a confused interpretation of themselves and those around them. In this confusing darkness, where the beautiful and revealing light of love has grown dim, “what is” can be mistakenly perceived as a long feared nightmare. Like a chair with a hat on it in the darkness can become a demon in the night. These confused interpretations can paint a loving and loved family member or friend as an “enemy”. This can lead to confused defensive (and often aggressive defensive) actions and words towards the “enemy”.
The situation can become even more confusing and painful if the defensive/or aggressive defensive words are misunderstood by the other person. And I believe I often do misunderstand my loved one’s words and actions formed in their inner struggle. I see their actions and words push me away and I assume they are trying to push me away because they see me as a “problem”. This makes me feel like I am an unwanted burden to those I love as opposed to a loved team mate. I feel there must be something about me that makes those I love not want to be around me. Makes them not love me.
At this point, I become lost in my own pain and struggles. My loved one disappears before my eyes. I may even be inspired by my own painful and confusing struggle to see my loved one as an “enemy”. Then I might say and do things that will send my already struggling loved one further into their pain and inner struggle. A vicious cycle of hurt and hurting each other can form so easily within this dark fog of confused and pained seeing. There can be a blindness to the reality of this being a communication between 2 people who deeply love each other.
I believe if I can build a strong faith that I am unconditionally loved, then I can hopefully avoid false understandings and all the pains and struggle they bring. With that solid foundation of knowing I am loved, then I can correctly recognize attempts to push me away as indications my loved one is struggling internally with themselves. This more accurate understanding may inspire compassionate actions and words from me as opposed to defensive or defensive aggressive ones. I will see their attempts to push me away, as not about me. I could continue to see my loved one as a loved one. Someone on the same team as me, bonded in love. This is a moment where they are struggling a moment for me to offer support. A moment they may want a listening ear, a hug, understanding, validation, motivation, an expression of faith in them, an expression of being with them right where they are and loving them.
It is my responsibility to build this faith in their love. I understand now that it is time for my old interpretations to be replaced by the new. For the misunderstood and painful words of my loves ones to be removed by their roots from my past and to never be heard again in the present. With a steadfast faith in their unconditional love the past can be reinterpreted and the present understood clearly. A steadfast faith in those closest to me love of me seems powerful. It has been clarifying writing this all down. It appears building this steadfast faith in being loved is an excellent focus in the struggle to learn how to feel other’s love of me.
This returns my mind to earlier in this write up when I stated “I will learn to more freely express my love and feel other’s love of me.” When I started this write up, I was most focused on learning to express my love more freely. I believed how loved I felt by others was out of my control. However, that does not seem to be the case. I now suspect this learning to have steadfast faith in others love of me will free me to “feel” others love of me. It will bring me an awareness of what already is but I am blind to. Furthermore I think this “feeling” of being loved may be connected to more freely expressing my own love. Maybe I’ve had the ordering wrong. Maybe the proper order is 1) Learn to feel others love freely then 2) Learn to express my love freely.
This clarifies a lot of my struggle to me. I have noticed expressing my own love in any sort of free way is often too big of a challenge for me right now. I have so much fear of expressing love. Even when a loving impulse arises in me, so often I hold it in. I am so afraid to act. I do not understand why? What do I fear will happen? Do I not trust my love? Do I fear it is a destructive hurtful force to those around me? The feeling of fear is so real, but what the feared outcome is seems invisible to me.
This fear of expressing love which holds me back from expressing love frustrates me and sometimes leads to a sense of hopelessness and shame. But maybe a steadfast faith in other’s love of me is the missing key. Maybe it feels like loving freely to me is an impossible challenge because I never feel loved with any sense of security. Sure I wish I could show love freely even if I am unloved, but maybe that is an unnecessarily huge hurdle. Maybe it’s a hurdle I’m not even facing. Though it is how I “feel” the situation to be, maybe I am mistaken. Maybe I am already surrounded by love (I know my family and husband would say they love me), but my detection of it is lacking. My awareness is the problem.
Concluding all these thoughts, I am recognizing so often that confusion (which often leads to fear) is the greatest challenge for me. It feels like growth is learning. But for learning to really be running smoothly there must be a sense of clarity. What is one attempting to learn? What is an effective way to learn it? How to determine whether progress is being made in learning or whether changes need to be made? How to understand and whether to adjust for feelings of intense pain? How to understand other people’s inputs and feedback? I am very thankful that expressing myself in writing and reading what others have learned about themselves often is a path to clarity for me.
My kids have been enjoying I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde. It’s a short children’s book with a beautiful message.
I will share some of Susan Verde’s empowering words below.
This is the author’s dedication at the start:
“This book is my love letter to the world, as each one of us is worthy of love in all its forms and expressions, and we are ALL capable of adding light to the world when we listen to our hearts and choose love”.
The story begins as follow:
“When I see someone going through a storm of hurt and unfairness, of anger and sadness when the sun disappears and the skies grow dark….and I see there is fear…I ask myself, “What can I do to help let the light back in?” I put my hands on my heart and listen. And that is where I find the answer: I have compassion. I act with tenderness. I am love.”
The sweetly illustrated book then lists actions of love, what love is. These are some of the examples given in the book –
– “I can listen and not say a word. I can be there. Love is being present.”
– “I can speak softly and choose my words and actions carefully. Love is gentle.”
– “I can keep my mind and body safe and healthy. Love is taking care of me.”
– “I can express what’s important to me. Love is creative.”
What a wonderful, simple, practical, and empowering message for kids and adults! After a few reading sessions I discovered the author’s notes in the back of the book –
“Love is everywhere! It is inside of us and all around us, and there are so many ways it can be shared and expressed. But sometimes things happen in life that make us feel afraid, sad, frightened, or helpless, and our ability to find that love can get lost. “I am Love” is an exploration of the many ways love exists, and an affirmation of how – once we listen to our hearts and find the love within ourselves- we can share it with the world and find connection and compassion. My hope is that this book will inspire conversations with our children about love in all its expressions, and about how we are not helpless but in fact have the power to make the world more beautiful when we come from a place of love.”
I am seeing beacons of love, like Susan Lorde’s I Am Love: A Book of Compassion, everywhere. I often wonder how I remained unaware of all this beauty for so long. It sometimes feels like a riddle I “need” to solve. As if the answer could empower me to better support others in finding love again, or convince me I have security within this new world of experiencing love.
Though I guess, like described so wonderfully by Susan Lorde, it was hurt and fear that caused me to lose sight of my ability to love for so long. And what reawoke me to my ability to love? LOVE. What will keep me from falling so deeply back into the old fears and hurts? LOVE. How can I support others wherever they are on their journey? LOVE.
How powerful, how beautiful, how good, love is! How simple the equation, how simple the philosophy of love. But how difficult to stay on the path of love…yet it always remains in all its beauty and power within us and around us. Welcoming us back, with open arms, a smile, and celebration. Healing. To be lost and found over and over again.
This path like nature of love vs. a destination is something I have been pondering recently. It seems I always have farther to go, more to learn, more growth. I so often, unknowingly, wander off the path of love. And have to seek love’s path again.
Though, so far, my experience has been that I do not get as deeply lost as I was before all this change within me. Before all this change within me, I had deeply lost track of my ability to love (so much so I didn’t even believe in the existence of a purer love) yet I was searching for love again. Whereas now I often, unknowingly, wander away from love’s path. But usually rather quickly recognize I have left love’s path and somewhat smoothly redirect myself back towards love. I seem to know where my love is better now, and how to get back to it.
At first I felt this wandering and returning was a “problem” so to say. A sign of an underdeveloped area within me, an area that needed to learn and grow. But I am starting to feel this unknowing journeying away from love’s path, realizing of having journeyed, and then reorienting myself back to love’s path will continue. Maybe it is simply part of being human. Part of the nature of a free being who is living, learning, creating, and growing empowered by love.
A new relationship has been forming between me and the internal things (thoughts and feelings) within me. I see them more clearly as distinct things which exist outside of my real center of self/consciousness. They are all around me within my internal world, but they are not within ME. In this more detached state, there is less fear of what I see and with less fear more freedom. Freedom to observe these mental things (thoughts and feelings) with more curiosity and to study them more deeply.
Sometimes as I sit with and study a familiar thought or feeling around me internally a completely unfamiliar thoughts or feeling, seemingly connected to the familiar one, arises. I often feel the urge to leave these unfamiliar thoughts unstudied. I’ll think “How could they be relevant to my life if I have never used them consciously in decision making?”. Even more, not only are these thoughts totally unfamiliar, they often appear inaccurate and illogical to me (ex. “If someone isn’t being loving to me, then it must be the case I do not deserve their love. Therefore I should change my behavior until I can be lovable to them.). My thinking mind considers these thoughts to be ridiculous. It would never use them in any decision making process. Therefore my thinking mind forcefully declares these thoughts are irrelevant to me and my life.
Yet if I stick with my study of these unfamiliar and illogical thoughts, and especially if I try to speak to someone else about them, sometimes strong and uncontrollable emotions will instantly pour out of me. I breakdown in tears. The tears surprise me. They often embarrass me. I believe I am simply trying to study or discuss untrue and illogical thoughts I do not hold. If I try to introspect and determine what within me is causing the tears, I don’t recognize any emotion or thought within me that could explain the tears. I feel fine.
But this contrast between how I feel and how I am acting confuses and frustrates me. I do not have that uniquely personal ability to introspect/to see what is within this mind who is crying. It is as if someone else’s mind has gained control over my external emotional expressions. Though I know this is not true. Rather it must be that I have completely lost introspective touch with a part of my emotional brain. Though clearly that part has not lost touch/control over my body. I suspect this lost part of my emotional mind is part of my unconscious mind. I have always believed in the unconscious mind, but never before have I experienced a mindful awareness that I am witnessing it’s effects acting through me.
In order to know what is within this part of my unconscious, I must use my reasoning abilities. I first collect information by observing how my body is acting (crying). Then I reason that within my internal but unconscious world there must be some feeling of sadness, emotional pain, or hurt.
It appears that my calmer and freer introspection/observation of my familiar internal world is allowing me to see for the first time some of the unconscious (“unfamiliar and illogical”) thoughts and feelings which are fueling these more familiar thoughts and feelings. That would explain why these unfamiliar thoughts are suddenly appearing internally around me now that I am more deeply studying my familiar thoughts and feelings. It may also help explain why they often appear to me to be illogical or inaccurate thoughts. They were learned/formed by a much younger me’s knowledge, perspective, and freedom. A me in a different world.
But before I go more into the origin of these beliefs, I find it important to add I have tried to study how frequently unconscious/invisible thoughts may be influencing my actual choices and behavior. I took one of these newly conscious/visible “unfamiliar and illogical thoughts” and looked back to see if there was any evidence of its influence in my past choices, actions, understanding of other people and myself, etc. I found evidence of its influence EVERYWHERE. It was a missing variable. It helped explain some of my most puzzling habitual choices and behaviors. Even more I realized other people had seen my actions and suggested maybe I had this thought/feeling. I couldn’t introspect it within me, so I had never believed that I did hold such a thought/feeling. But now I infer it was unconsciously fueling many of my past choices and behaviors.
Returning back to why the beliefs I become conscious of from the unconscious would appear to me as illogical and untrue, I assume this is because the unconscious largely learned what it knows during my childhood. Therefore within a child’s knowledge, perspective and freedom it solidified the code of best action for thriving in “the world” including what is dangerous for me. I left childhood – I acquired more knowledge, more perspectives, more power, and more freedom. But what happened to everything I had learned, my code of life? What is the relationship between the child’s old and deeply practiced knowledge of the world and how best to thrive in it and all the adult’s new and ever growing knowledge, perspectives, and freedoms. How did/do they interact?
I am not sure. But I suspect I have long lived as a feeling and thinking learning machine struggling in perpetual confusion. A feeling and thinking learning machine that can only be and live in the present, but through my memory code can get lost in “the past”. I can fiercely battle to defend myself and life from long gone but now unconsciously self-empowered demons. A feeling and thinking learning machine that can only be and live in the present, but through my imagination code can get lost in “the future”. I can imagine “what is” could be better (more beautiful, happier, etc, ) and this imagining of possibilities clouds my vision of the real “what is” before me. “What is” becomes seen as not enough. It could be more good therefore is is not yet good (it is bad), it could be more beautiful therefore is is not yet beautiful( it is ugly), it could be more happy therefore is not yet happy (it is sad).
I am a feeling and thinking learning machines who knows that I have the power and am free to update my code, and therefore expects to look out and see my true self in how I show up in the world. Yet so often I look out and see I act drastically out of step with how I code/will myself to act. This can lead me to doubt my very nature, doubt whether I am beautiful and good on the inside. If I am, wouldn’t I see that beautiful and good self in my actions? Or it leads me to doubt my power and freedom to truly update my code. Who or what controls my actions then? There can be no peace for a learning machine made for living life (action), but in a state of perpetual confusion about the internal world and external one.
Yet, there is hope! Clarity. For maybe it is true that I have the power and freedom to update/modernize my code, maybe that’s never been lacking. Maybe what has been lacking is the ability to see/access the old code, and even more the acceptance that such an unconscious/invisible code exists. How can one change what one can not see? But now I know through experience such an unconscious mind/code is within me and can (without my awareness) be the fuel of my thoughts and feelings and therefore actions. Even more I have experienced that if I can study my conscious thoughts and feelings in a detached state, once unconscious thoughts and feelings sometimes arise before my consciousness. I can see code that was once invisible to me, so maybe now I can start to change/update it.
And it does seem that once my thinking mind reasons an unfamiliar thought or feeling explains some of my past actions and makes sense as being learned from my childhood, it becomes understood and accepted as existing within an unconscious part of my mind. This understanding and acceptance integrates the unconscious part back into my conscious mind- back into the internal world around me I can see/introspect.
With this ability to see/introspect the once unconscious thought in real time as it is triggered in my day to day life, I have the freedom to reason whether the thought is accurately capturing the truth within me or in the world. I have the freedom to gather more information to determine it’s accuracy or test out a different thought. When I cultivate more accurate/true thoughts than I see myself and the external world more accurately/true. This changes my thoughts and actions. I look within and without into the external world and more often see the beautiful, good, and true world and the beautiful, good, and true me actually showing up in it.
The transcript below is from: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/ I removed parts of the transcript, which I felt weren’t crucial, to make it a slightly shorter read. I find this a beautiful and insightful description of the nature and power of love.
His sermon follows:
“So I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation: the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.
Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.
Now first let us deal with this question, which is the practical question: How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self. It seems to me that that is the first and foremost way to come to an adequate discovery to the how of this situation. Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people will not like you, not because of something you have done to them, but they just won’t like you. I’m quite aware of that. Some people aren’t going to like the way you walk; some people aren’t going to like the way you talk. Some people aren’t going to like you because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because other people like you, and because you’re popular, and because you’re well-liked, they aren’t going to like you. Some people aren’t going to like you because your hair is a little shorter than theirs or your hair is a little longer than theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little brighter than theirs; and others aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little darker than theirs. So that some people aren’t going to like you. They’re going to dislike you, not because of something that you’ve done to them, but because of various jealous reactions and other reactions that are so prevalent in human nature.
But after looking at these things and admitting these things, we must face the fact that an individual might dislike us because of something that we’ve done deep down in the past, some personality attribute that we possess, something that we’ve done deep down in the past and we’ve forgotten about it; but it was that something that aroused the hate response within the individual. That is why I say, begin with yourself. There might be something within you that arouses the tragic hate response in the other individual.
……….. King discusses political systems and how self analysis is helpful there too.
And this is what Jesus means when he said: “How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?” Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?” And this is one of the tragedies of human nature. So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us whether in collective life or individual life by looking at ourselves.
A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and every time you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points. I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life. There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, “There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul: “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.”
So somehow the “isness” of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.
………………. King discusses the Greek language’s 3 types of Love (Eros, Philia, and Agape)
The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.
And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.
Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.
I think I mentioned before that sometime ago my brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.” And I looked at him right quick and said: “Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”
Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights. And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.
And this is why Jesus says hate, that you want to be integrated with yourself, and the way to be integrated with yourself is be sure that you meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses. Psychologists and psychiatrists are telling us today that the more we hate, the more we develop guilt feelings and we begin to subconsciously repress or consciously suppress certain emotions, and they all stack up in our subconscious selves and make for tragic, neurotic responses. And may this not be the neuroses of many individuals as they confront life that that is an element of hate there. And modern psychology is calling on us now to love. But long before modern psychology came into being, the world’s greatest psychologist who walked around the hills of Galilee told us to love. He looked at men and said: “Love your enemies; don’t hate anybody.” It’s not enough for us to hate your friends because—to to love your friends—because when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. “love your enemies.”
….King gives example of Abraham Lincoln and Stanton.
That’s it. There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”
And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words. History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.
Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.
……Martin Luther King Jr. talks about military leaders realizing that love leads to more followers than force.
And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.
So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.”Martin Luther King Jr.
I don’t have anything to add to those powerful words. I will share some of my thoughts and feelings when I first stumbled upon this sermon on Youtube. I was deeply moved. I hadn’t often (if ever) heard such a strong faith in and reasoned argument for the ultimate power of love. My whole self seemed to be in agreement that this sermon’s message was beautiful and the good. “Yes this path of radical love is beautiful and good. I love this!”. Yet similar to when I watched the Grace vs. Nature section from Tree of Life (I shared in past post), something inside of me rose up quickly to deny that I (or any human) could ever truly love their enemy. It was as if first there was a “Yes, yes, this is the Truth, the answer!” but quickly this more cynical voice arose and said “Sure, but how?” or “This isn’t possible” or became aggressive towards myself “You don’t/couldn’t live like this!” or maybe even doubted the speaker “I bet he doesn’t really feel/live like this.”.
When I first encountered this sermon I had begun my journey/struggle back to myself, so the cynical voice inside me didn’t capture as much of my attention. It had always kept me from diving into the truth of the philosophy of love, but it didn’t seem to have that strength anymore. This sermon hit hard, that cynical voice was still there but the voice saying “Yes, yes, this is the Truth, the answer” was louder now and was able to outlive the cynical one. I was left seeing that I was not currently aware of a feeling of “loving my enemy” but that I wanted that feeling. I believed it was possible. I felt Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus had both discovered and lived, to a large extent, in the state of that radical love for all. I wondered what would it take for me to experience the love for all they had experienced and to live more in that state? But I had doubts, I worried that maybe it wasn’t possible for the average person to truly love their enemy or maybe it just wasn’t possible for someone like me. These worries gave me a sense of hopelessness and guilt. But another notion rose up around these feelings of worry and guilt, and it wondered “Was the hope and striving towards loving all, even if I was never able to experience it or live in it, in itself beautiful and good?”.
I knew I wanted to hear everything I could about this philosophy of love. I searched for more Martin Luther King Jr. sermon’s. I found his sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams” which helped me find my answer to whether my hope and striving towards love of all was enough or whether I must reach this goal of love of all. In his sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams” Martin Luther King Jr. says
“And then we come to that passage over in the eighth chapter of First Kings, which reads, “And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. And the Lord said unto David my father, ‘Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was within thine heart.’” And that’s really what I want to talk about this morning: it is well that it was within thine heart. As if to say, “David, you will not be able to finish the temple. You will not be able to build it. But I just want to bless you, because it was within thine heart. Your dream will not be fulfilled. The majestic hopes that guided your days will not be carried out in terms of an actual temple coming into being that you were able to build. But I bless you, David, because it was within thine heart. You had the desire to do it; you had the intention to do it; you tried to do it; you started to do it. And I bless you for having the desire and the intention in your heart. It is well that it was within thine heart.”
These words from Martin Luther King Jr. allowed me to understand and accept that my hope and striving for love of all (even my enemies) was good and beautiful in itself, even if the goal was never realized/lived.
This peace with where I was at, not yet aware of “loving my enemy” but striving for that state of love, was powerful. It freed me from guilt, which allowed me to drop some of my old defenses. Rather quickly, with those ego self defenses down, I was able to see there was no hate for “my enemy” in my heart. I didn’t see love. But recognizing there was no hate was a powerful early step in this journey to reconnect to myself/my child self/my real self, that self that lives in a state of love for all and everything.
In my lowest depths of being lost, a meaninglessness of life and myself weighed heavy on me. I felt emptied out, neither happy or sad, just nothing. Every task, every day big and small was an annoying little burden. Nothing felt particularly challenging or painful just meaningless. Effort in any direction felt like too much effort. “What’s the point?” was the common mood. But somehow lost within these dark thoughts and feelings my true self remained unconvinced. She was somewhat afraid and kept reminding me “something is wrong, these thoughts are not you”. She sensed how far astray I had wandered from myself, how attentively and deeply I was staring into darkness and delusions, into meaninglessness.
In this state one of my favorite books, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, started popping into mind. Looking back, it seems my real self was trying to turn my attention to the light. Specifically it was the a character’s final realizations that kept arising within my mind: (Big Anna Karenina SPOILER below, so skip following quote if you want to avoid spoiler)
“but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to put into it.”
When I had read Anna Karenina many years before those words, that character, Tolstoy, had caught my attention and showed me a glimpse of the beautiful and good meaning within me, within us all, and within the world. I had been too lost within delusions (of myself and the world) at the time to see any truth to Tolstoy’s words though. I recognized how profound it was, but couldn’t see how it had any relevance to my “real life”. So my attention quickly moved back to the many distractions of “true” life.
Yet my heart must have stored away Tolstoy’s words. For when the many delusions/darkness (which I had been staring into for as long as I can remember) started to feel meaningless, suddenly I was free to turn my attention elsewhere. I started encountering my real self more often. This idea from Tolstoy, my “power” to add even a small “positive meaning of goodness” to life, was one of the earliest beautiful and good ideas I kept encountering. Others followed as she poured out the beautiful and good (sacred even) thoughts, feelings, and dreams, etc. which I had gathered through life and protected away in my heart.
Finally I was back to myself and the world. For the first time in my adult life I was facing the beautiful and the good with enough freedom from delusions/darkness to have FAITH. Faith that there was truth in beauty and goodness It wasn’t a truth I could immediately see, but I was determined to no longer reject it outright as false. The old life long beliefs had finally shown their real face, paths of emptiness and meaninglessness to an empty and meaningless destination. They no longer had any appeal. I was determined to find and see the goodness and the beauty everywhere. It felt my heart already knew it was there (maybe it remembers what we can not from childhood). I started seeking out others’ visions and understandings throughout history on the beauty and the goodness (on that which they love).
Life has been going smoothly. Each day has a rhythm and flow to it. The critical judging mind, the guilting mind, the resisting mind, haven’t been as present as they once were. They do still arise, but I am able to more effortlessly remain unengaged to them, and they fade away. I feel I am still learning and growing, but in a more peaceful and painless way. Mistakes aren’t felt as mistakes so much as just part of life. Life involves a never-ending learning process.
I feel I have the energy and courage to find a flow I enjoy each day, including little steps in building towards future hopes. There is one aspect of life I do still feel uncertain of. As strange as it is to say I may be afraid of LOVE. Both the showing of love and the receiving of love.
This is still hazy to me. It is something I am discovering about myself. There is a resistance in me to the whole idea, which usually indicates there’s a painful truth I’m avoiding. I live freer now of my self judgments and the judgments of others. I’m happier, more optimistic, more productive, less stuck in my mind. But am I more loving? I’d say I am definitely less critical of those around me. I also am a happier person to be around then I used to be. I still notice others’ moods, but don’t as often get personally wrapped in them or feel a frustrating responsibly that I’m suppose to “fix” their moods. This allows me to listen more and to simply sit with an understanding of how someone else feels. I feel I interact with more grace.
So some significant unhealthy bad habits have been removed, but are the good habits growing up in the new space? I think in some ways yes in some ways no. I sometimes feel I have spent so long tossing and turning within my own mind that I have never had space and time to think of others. I haven’t yet built up the skills of being present with others and letting them be present with me. I am trying to learn those now.
There are some things I’m noticing as I try to more freely venture into the world. One is that with the slightest push back from others there is an almost overwhelming urge in me to pull back inwards. A thought like “Why do I put myself out there? I don’t need these people anyway. I am better off in my own little world.” will pop up. I guess it is those old worn beliefs and networks trying to get started, trying to get me to flee again. Offering protection, but luring me away from so much in life I find good and beautiful – other people.
Another pattern I notice is that if someone more directly and harshly pushes me away/dismisses me I can be flooded with wordless hurt. It feels empty of words and thoughts, just a pure sadness. Was it a pure sadness feeling like this that sent my child self fleeing inwards back when I was actually still a child. Was this what trained me to believe I couldn’t live freely in the world? I had to always watch myself/edit myself or I would be cast away by others?
I love people and want to be loved by them. But in between me and others there seems to lie red lights and stop signs, warnings. And they switch on with the tiniest hint, often it feels even imagined hint, that the other person “doesn’t like me”. It feels deep deep down inside, out of my awareness even, there is a belief that people do not like the real me. I do not know why it is so hidden. (Is it because it’s too painful? Is it because the belief was developed before I even had language?)
As I progress forward in this journey living as the real me it will be important for me to keep showing up freely in the world. Child me didn’t understand everyone has their own darkness they feel trapped in (their own distance from living freely as who they are and what they love). Child me didn’t know it was this pain in others, not something inherently ugly or bad in me, that led them to try to suppress my child self/hurt me. Due to this lack of understanding I suspect a wordless belief/fear grew in me. I came to believe there was something ugly or bad in me. Older, teenage me, still didn’t understand this darkness in others, and I suspect added another mistaken belief/fear to the mix. I began to believe it was uglyness and badness within others that caused them to hurt me. This idea could coat over some of the pain and fear there was something wrong with me, but the human world which I loved became scary, ugly, and bad. My understanding of the world within and the world outside of me was in a total state of confusion and contradiction. My heart sometimes seemed to recognize this confusion it in a wordless way. But my mind was sure I knew the harsh truth, and in order to “get by” I had to live it.
As I have lived I have learned, and I have come to believe that neither me or anyone else is ugly or bad, merely many of us have turned our sights away from the light of what we find beautiful and good (what we love). Usually this turn into the darkness is brought about very early in life due to some sort of pain and fear of more pain. However, it feels this new belief and the lifestyle that flows from it does not simply make the older more worn beliefs and lifestyles disappear. If I were a logical being I would simply discard those old inaccurate models of the world, yet it seems I am an emotional being who can not so simply do so. I believe this is why in matters of giving and receiving love there is quickness in me to feel the urge to flee (the old “This person doesn’t like me because I am bad or ugly inside” system getting activated) or attack (the old “This person doesn’t like me because he/she is bad or ugly inside” system getting activated).
These beliefs on hair trigger make social interactions feel uneasy. I believe as I practice not engaging with the old beliefs and their systems and instead engage with my new belief and system the power of the old will fade and the power of the new will increase. (I imagine it working like weights do in machine learning.) I have faith that with practice I can overcome my old belief and fear of being unloved. I have faith I can more effortlessly remain present with others, show love to others, and enjoy the love that is shown to me.