Healing: Take full responsibility & understand

 

I had a conversation with a friend the other day, and she brought up how some use psychological insights to excuse their own or another’s behavior.

For me, it’s a reminder that we are all fully responsible for our own behavior, and yet our behavior – including the unkind and confused one – is understandable and has explanations.

To heal, we typically need to address both.

We need to take full responsibility for our own behavior. I made that choice. Nobody and nothing “forced” me to make it. I can’t blame anyone or anything.

And we need to understand some of where it came from. It’s helpful to understand it on the story level in terms of origins, reasons and so on. And it’s very helpful to frame this in a kind way, also because that’s closer to reality. So often, we find that what we regret the most or are most ashamed of is innocent. It was a confused and innocent way to try to deal with our life and pain, although it may have created (triggered) a lot of pain for ourselves and perhaps others.

Taking responsibility without this understanding can be harsh and crushing. And having some of this understanding without taking responsibility is a cop-out and prevents us from changing and healing. We need both.

This also goes for how I relate to others. I can seek to understand some of why they behave the way they do. I can know that if I more fully understood, I would have empathy for them. And I also see and know they are fully responsible for their own actions.

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Central vs peripheral issues

 

I saw someone ask: is this a core issue for me?

What is a core issue?

For me, I think of them as central issues. Issues that are central to who I take myself to be. Issues that have a general impact on my daily life. Issues that are often tied into many other issues – they are networked, have branches, roots and so on. And they are often universal. Shared by many or most humans and ingrained in our culture one way or another.

Some examples of typical core issues in our culture: Fear of rejection. Low self-worth. Define ourselves by our actions and accomplishments.

In contrast, peripheral issues are less central to who I take myself to be. It has less of a general impact on my daily life and tends to be triggered only in specific situations. And they appear more isolated and less tied in with other issues. Although if we explore them, they often lead to more central issues.

Of course, the separation into central and peripheral issues is mind-made and imagined. It’s fuzzy. It’s a matter of definition. It’s there just as a general guide. Sometimes helpful, sometimes less so.

For me, the distinction is mostly helpful in prioritizing what to work on. I’ll generally choose to work on more central issues, although sometimes it’s important to work on the more peripheral ones as well.

I should also mention that if I notice I am reluctant to work on one of my own issues, and it’s difficult for me to do so when I finally get to it, it’s more likely to be a central issue. The peripheral ones are usually easier and more enjoyable to work on. So if it’s a central issue for me, I may get someone else to facilitate me in inquiring into it, or do Vortex Healing for it.

This is also why we often end up working a lot on our peripheral issues and put off working on the central ones. It’s easier to work on what’s less central to who I take myself to be. And that’s another reason why being aware of this (mind-made) difference between central and peripheral issues can be helpful.

Which category do I tend to work on? Perhaps I need to acknowledge my fear of working on the more central issues? Perhaps it will be easier for me if I ask for help to work on them?

So what about the initial question: is this a core issue for me? Only you will know. But if it’s central to who you take yourself to be, colors your daily life, seem tied into other issues, and it’s difficult for you to get to know or work, then it may be a central issue. If so, and you want to explore it, it may be good to ask for assistance.

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Cultural differences in taking about issues

 

After having lived for a while in Oregon and California, I notice cultural differences in how I and others sometimes talk about emotional issues.

For instance, if I share about something triggered in me, I often also share the triggering situation. My intention is to share, clarify it for myself, and sow a seed for continuing to explore and work on it. It’s a confession and it helps my process. (And it can also be a way of connecting with the other, letting that person know what’s going on in me.) Mostly, it’s understood and received that way, and perhaps especially by people from the US west coast since we share this language and orientation.

And sometimes, it’s misunderstood. Sometimes, the other person focuses on the triggering situation and issue and goes off debating it.

Yesterday is an example. I shared how I noticed something in me getting triggered when a Facebook friend posted a snarky (conspiracy-laden, anti-climate change) comments on one of my posts. Instead of listening and acknowledging it, as I hoped for or expected, she went into debating the content of the comment.

I felt hurt because I felt she didn’t see me, and also because the conversation went off in another direction than I wanted, and in a direction irrelevant to why I mentioned it in the first place.

So what to do? It’s good to anticipate that these misunderstandings can happen. And if I suspect there is a chance it may happen, preface my sharing and clarify my intention in sharing. For instance, I may say: I notice I got triggered earlier today. Can I share with you? The situation is not important in itself, but I would like to share so I can see it more clearly and work on it later.

As this keeps happening – and especially in Norway where people have a different way of talking about these things – I want to hone my skills in prefacing and clarifying.

I have written about this topic in earlier articles.

For instance, I sometimes use parts language and talk about subpersonalities, and say I notice a part of me [sees the world this way, feels this way] and assume the other will understand that this is just a part, it’s universal and something we all have in us, and it’s not my conscious view. Most people in my life understand this and we share this language.

And yet, people not familiar with parts language – including psychologists and spiritual teachers – sometimes misunderstand. They assume that what I shared about the part is something I am consciously identified with and how I, as a whole, see the world. And they sometimes appear shocked, start arguing with it, and take the conversation in a very different direction than intended.

I have experienced filling out psychological questionnaires that only ask about the presence of something (an emotion, a set of thoughts) and not the strength, and – being honest – I’ll answer yes to all of it since all of it is in me, even if it’s at a very small level and doesn’t impact my daily life. And it’s taken as if these are in me at a strong level. (I understand that for most people filling out those questionnaires, that’s the case. But I have to be honest and answer truthfully, and I notice these in me even if they are at a tiny level.)

And I have also noticed that some in Norway – including people who I had assumed would know better like psychologists and spiritual teachers – assume that knowing about or understanding an issue at a story level should be enough to resolve it. And they, again, seem shocked (shocked!) that I am aware of issues and dynamics in me that are not (yet) fully resolved.

To me, this is not surprising at all since knowing about something at a story level doesn’t resolve it. We need to go further and deeper for something to resolve more thoroughly.

The answer to all of this is anticipating when this may happen and nip it in the bud by prefacing what I am about to share. And if it’s misunderstood, notice as soon as possible (it sometimes takes a while for me to understand what’s happening), step back from where the other person is taking the conversation, and clarify.

Triggered issues bring us to the past

 

Emotional issues are like bubbles that preserve the past on the inside.

They were created in a specific situation in the past, often in our childhood, and often as a reaction to an ongoing situation.

When they are not triggered, or not triggered strongly, our center of gravity is outside of the bubble. We function more or less as if it’s not there, although the issue will inevitably color our perceptions and life.

When they are triggered, we may find ourself inside of the bubble. The past comes alive for us, we feel we are back in the same situation, it colors our experience of our current situation and the world, and we may even react as if we are back in the original situation.

To others, it may seem we are overreacting, misperceive the current situation, and behave irrationally. To us, we are back in the past. We behave in a way that makes sense for the younger person we were, and in the original situation. The situation we were in that felt scary and overwhelming, and we created the issue in response to, in our innocence and in order to protect ourself.

As we explore the issue and invite the charge to go out of the issue (in my case, through inquiry, Vortex Healing, etc.), the bubble is less strong, we are more aware of what’s happening, and we are less likely to be absorbed into the bubble.

Here is a common progression of what may happen when a strong and deep-seated issue is triggered, and we continue to work on it.

At first, we may still be fully absorbed into it although we recognize what happened after it subsides. We may then recognize it as it’s triggered and we go inside the bubble. We may be able to openly acknowledge it as it happens. We may then find that we have one foot inside and one outside of the issue. And when it’s more released, the issue may be more gently triggered and we recognize it without needing to go inside the bubble.

For issues that are less strong, we may start somewhere closer to the middle of that progression.

As we continue to work on the issue and our relationship to it, strength and charge of the issue lessen, we relate to it more consciously, and the bubble is recognized more for what it is.

Issue work: chopping the top off the mountains

 

Most of us have innumerable emotional issues and too little time to work on all. We basically have everything in ourselves we see in the world. We see it because we recognize it from ourselves. And we have them in us since we are a genetic and cultural child of humanity.

So a practical approach is to find the central issues and work on them more thoroughly, and take the bite out of the rest, unless they keep cropping up and obviously interfere with my life.

This is a guideline that applies for whatever approach we use.

For me, it’s especially clear when I use Vortex Healing.

With core issues, I want to take them through the whole protocol even if it takes many hours. I sometimes ask someone else to do it for me since that’s easier for me than working on my own core issues. (I am more identified with them so it may be difficult to get started, or stay focused, or wanting to go through the full protocol thoroughly.)

With the rest, I often just do the main and most impactful parts of the protocol. This reduces the charge of the issue and makes it easier to relate to it consciously and it interferes less with my daily life. That may be enough, at least for the moment. If the issue keeps coming up in daily life, if it obviously interferes with my life, or if I am drawn to it, I can always do more.

How do I know if something is a core issue? It’s more likely to be a central issue for me if it’s been with me since early childhood, if I see it in my parents, if it’s a thread through my daily life, or if it’s a charged projection (if I keep seeing it in others and am bothered by it). Universal issues are also, almost by definition, more likely to be a central issue for me.

So the efficient approach is to be thorough with central issues and do just enough to take the edge off the rest. And if an issue keeps cropping up, treat it as a central issue.

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Simplistic assumptions: emotional issues and physical illness

 
Some like to think there is a one-to-one correspondence between certain emotional issues and certain physical illnesses. Or, at the very least, some like to present it that way. Why are people drawn to it?

It can give a sense of hope and control, and something to do about a serious issue.

Since all emotional issues are on a scale, we can always find any one issue in ourselves if we look.

Sometimes, there may be some truth to the apparent connection.

And, sometimes, someone will work on a specific emotional issue and the apparently corresponding physical issue clears up – for another reason.

What are the potential drawbacks?

We may blame ourselves. For instance for the emotional issue or for being unable to change it.

We may put time and energy into resolving an emotional issue that has little or nothing to do with the physical illness. (This, in itself, is not a bad thing if it doesn’t take away from other approaches.)

In the worst case, we may neglect other approaches that could be more effective.

What seems more accurate?

First, reason and experience suggest that a one-to-one correspondence between specific emotional issues and physical illnesses is overly simplistic. Life is more complex and varied than that.

At the same time, it seems clear the emotional issues can create physical weaknesses and susceptibility to physical illness. For instance, in a general sense, we know that’s true for stress or feeling lonely.

And sometimes, a specific emotional issue may indeed be connected to a physical illness. It may be one piece of the healing process puzzle. Other times, there may be little or no connection.

So what may be a more reasoned approach?

In general, it’s good to take a holistic approach.

What can mainstream medicine do? What can other – perhaps more leading-edge – medical specialists do?

What can we change in diet, environment, or activity to support healing? How can we change our life to support healing, including finding social support, more sense of meaning, and reducing stress?

And, yes, does there seem to be an emotional issue behind the physical illness, and what happens if we find healing for it? (Vortex Healing is the approach I have found that seems to best do both of those.)

As usual, there is most likely some grain of truth to the emotional issue – physical illness correspondence, at least to some extent and in some cases. And it’s good to take a whole picture and more grounded approach. Note: I know I have taken a devil’s advocate approach here. In reality, most people will look up what books etc. suggest about what emotional issue is behind their physical illness, take it with a grain of salt, check in with themselves to see if it seems likely, do something to find healing for it if yes, and still do whatever else they would do to find healing for their physical illness. It’s just one of many components, and for most people not even the most important one. Read More