The Bridge Home

the bridge home


When the holidays are upon us, the bridge home seems to be a more rickety bridge than usual.  Family life can encompass the best of days and the worst of days.  Remembering that what we fear in life is losing control of our selves, family can induce a loss of self and soul that has us wanting to scurry for the first rabbit hole that we find. It can also hold us in its embrace when the sorrow is too much to handle, and we are overwhelmed with grief.

Home for the holidays with Barbara Stanwyck  living in a perfect New England home, snow bound with a horse drawn sleigh at the front door to bring you into town for the last minute pound of butter or canned milk, was too pretty.  It creates in us a longing for something that does not really exist.  It always made me ask as a kid, “where do they go to the bathroom?”  You never saw in those idyllic movies where and of the “crap” happened.

christmas in connecticut

Life in 21st century America is a dollar driven life with things and events symbolizing an upward mobility and a sense of abundance that is not on the horizon for most Americans any more.  We have what we have, and we have to find a way to be content with that because the upward mobility american-dream-thing is a rapidly vanishing fantasy that is as equally unpalatable as Barbara’s dream in a 1950 Christmas in Connecticut movie.

Even our beloved states of longing seem to vanish with the advent of capitalism replacing democracy as not only the economic system of the american people, but as the form of government and the types of lives that are permitted under this new umbrella of global aristocracy. We have become income driven–not values driven.

As Americans we inherited a transcendental philosophy that was born out of the writings of Emerson, Alcott, and the 19th century Concord Literary Society that became know as the 1st revolutionaries in American Literature.  That period of American History became engrained in us, representing a value that was greater that what money could buy.  The early Transcendentalist saw the natural elements of life as the template to a free and loving society.  It used the natural to remind us of life and death.  It used humanity as the test center that attempted to illustrate that a society, a neighborhood was greater than the sum of its parts.

Communities and families died and suffered and lived and enjoyed life together.  The small town, dirt-road, trails always led to somewhere you wanted to be.  After all it was the the trotted road the got the wear.  Families are pretty much all that is left of this inter-dependent way of life; and families are hanging on by a thread as the holy dollar calls the older brother to Cleveland, and the younger sister to Huston and the parents had to retire to Florida as the Massachusetts economy became too expensive to purchase on a fixed-income.  So middle sister, who was fortunate enough to find a husband and a job in the home town, is now the only member of the family left in the home town.

Is it still home town when everyone you know has moved on or moved away?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is only food and companionship and love that make it happen.  It is not a commercial holiday.  Except for food, the stores have to be clamoring for your Christmas dollar there is no Thanksgiving gift.  And I am grateful for that fact.  Department stores and Big Box stores could starve to death on Thanksgiving and I would have one more things to be grateful for.

I want to make a wish today.  I want to wish that everyone who reads this essay will find a way to promote this message to everyone they know and meet.  I want this holiday to stay free of commercial broadcasting and that there will never be such a thing a thanksgiving music..  I want everyone to be as persistent as they can be to call families together for this once a year gratitude day.

I want the bridge home for Thanksgiving to be free and easy and spontaneous and not filled with expectations.  I want every one who wants to be home for the holiday to be able to get there.  I wish that this message get read by people who are just on the verge of wanting to get home to be spurred homeward by the sincerity and forgiveness that this holiday promotes.


Happy Gratitude Day, 2013

Charlestown, RI 02813

Sur Le Lac Sainte Jean

 The concept of self-love seems to be under perpetual attack, from the right, the left, and the center.  It seems that self-love, narcissism and selfishness or selflessness are all concepts that manage to disguise the authentic meaning of self love.  For me I find it easier to lump all aspects of self-love under the umbrella of managing ones life.  

    Management is an executive function that has come primarily under the influence of the ego, that aspect of ourselves that we generally think of when we call ourselves by our first name.   Repeat to yourself the following: “My Ego’s name is___(Al)______________.”  That give you a clear sense, and a sense that you can continue to clarify anytime you decide that it is necessary to check in with yourself to make sure that you are on the track for knowing what you want and what you want to do in life.  Without that compass to due north we are, indeed lost in a sea of consciousness.
   The management of self-love will never be satisfying if it emits exclusively from the ego.  Therefore it is of primary importance to we seekers that we know how to subjectively look within for data and information that comes from the other aspects of our organism other than the left-brain ego.  For starters the best way to access our more primal instincts is to simply stop as much thinking in english as we can, calm our bodies by taking simply a few deep breaths, to ensure that we are preparing ourselves for the transition to the search within instead of the objective and perpetual scanning of all that is outside of us. Then calmly ask yourself this question.
               If I could have anything and everything that I wanted what would that be?  If I were able to permit no resistances to
     my most heartfelt desires what would that look like?  
  There has to be no moral, no religious, no social or civilized judgements about your most inner and most personal wants.  This simple exercise in Letting-Go of Fear requires abject honesty with yourself and perhaps with your analyst, but with no one else, not your beloved partner, not your priest or minister….this is entirely a personal inventory that will help to guide you toward finding the star that you want to hitch a ride from. Keep in mind we are lost in
a sea of consciousness until we know our true north.
   Self-Love is a state of human affairs where by we understand that the primal objective of life is to successfully survive.  Self-love begins with an ability to access our survival instincts.  These instincts however are hidden under the shadow of the ego and getting to these instincts means that we have to be prepared to have a discussion with the aspect of us that is the Ego.  The Ego, as chief executive of the human organism, will not relinquish power readily.  So, you have to be prepared to go into the bosses office and be entirely straight, entirely honest with what you want for yourself and you must be able to fight off
the powerful intimidating and over-whelming feelings that the Ego will erect as a defense against you wanting to consult the wider sea of consciousness.
   Once in the presence of our deeper instincts rather than solely in the presence of the Ego, we can look at forgiveness, compassion we can see that Love is an action that we take, not a thing we have.  We can embrace all aspects of what we want because what we want is as good for ourselves as it is good for people and critters around us.  Narrow in on the positive feelings that would erupt if you were living exactly the way you would like to live your life.  And begin
to believe that you can and will have what you want once you know how to handle the pressures and the stresses of your own ego.
   All conflict in life is within the ego.  The metaphor that I have been using about ego induced conflict is this:  “You are going to a horse race with only two horses racing.  You decide to bet $1000 on one horse and to hedge your bet you bet $1000 on the other horse.”   That is the consequence of winning a battle within the ego…there can be no winner and no looser.   
   Quiet the mind for a moment, let yourself access anything and everything that you want and place no restrictions whatsoever on that desire….open your eyes and go on living as if nothing happened.
   Then simply let your dreams unfold.Image


Sea-Change: A Pope of Hope



We are not always ready for a sea change. We are not always ready to embrace and allow progressive thinking. We tend to want to hang on to our ideas as if the were precious. Sometimes we hang onto our ideals with the same tenacity that we use to hang on to a person,or things, or a drug.

Life has a way of presenting itself in such a manner that we believe that the act that just happened in front of me is the cause for my emotion. That simply is not the case. All kind of terrible events happen to us or in front of our eyes. But our reaction to these random events do not cause us to have an emotion. Our emotion colors how we see the act or how we perceive the person in front of us.

The more powerful our reaction is to an event gives that event its significance its meaning and it value in our lives.

I have experienced several se-changes in my life. I want to say a few words about the most recent which is still resonating with me today.

When Francis was elected to the thrown in Rome, I had a violent, somewhat vicious and totally uninformed reaction to him. One more pompous man dressed in a white dress, covered in gold lame, accessorized in crimson red and wearing Prada shoes…parading around dispensing judgements that were in fact condemnations to hell.

I have to apologize to Francis. My partner was very stern when he told me I was spouting out language that had no bearing on the man himself. I was prepared to condemn him as I has felt condemned by the church.

I was wrong, or at least I now have hope that perhaps I was wrong. His tone and his peace manner imparted in me a serenity and formed a cavern in my heart that left room for reconciliation, forgiveness. I watched with tears as this humble man moved a high liturgy from inside the basilica, adorned in ancient marble and gold and paintings by Michelangelo, to a juvenile detention center in Rome where he proceeded to wash the feet of 12 inmates instead of washing the feet of twelve old Cardinals.

I listened in disbelief when he made poverty into a global issue that we in all nations needed to come to a better understanding of. I read his encyclicals where he instructed his bishops and priests to support civil unions for Gay couples, advocating that we be afforded all the rights and legalities that belong to marriage. He asked that we might keep the sacrament of marriage as unique to the partnership between man and woman, because it was a venerable tradition.

My decades of resentment toward the Catholic church has created a cold spot in my heart, one that I was no longer aware of. But when Francis with his insistence on peace and poverty and humility entered into my consciousness, I had an immediate desire to emulate that humble nature that smiled out of what looked like a man very much at peace with himself….

Who knows, he might be exactly what the world needs at this point in time….I have no need to forgive the church for the insanities of the Spanish inquisition, nor can I forgive yet the insane position that condoms would increase the spread of AIDS.

But if I let myself be willing to hear what he says without first judging him, I think I will have done myself a great favor…..Image

regression in service of the ego: a psychosomatic origin


When we speak about the return of the repressed, we are addressing a condition that is very closely associated with the repetition compulsion.  In other words we are talking about a condition that repeats itself despite the fact that there is no etiological reason for the repetition.  

Take the case of an illness that started in a rather benign fashion.  Let’s use the condition of a kidney stone.  What we know about kidney stones is that they are nearly as painful as child-birth.  Now let us move to a situation where the pain of the kidney stone remains despite the fact that the stone is removed.  Add to this mix a recent traumatic event like the adoption of a foster child too late in life for it to be comfortable for the mother.

Here we have the makings of the return of the repressed.  What is repressed is repressed because it has been relegated to a position in the mind that is not easily assessable.  What make it assessable to ordinary consciousness is a situation that although is not a kidney stone, it has enough of the characteristics of a kidney stone to go searching the unconscious for a past event that created that kind of pain.  The mind is attempting in a psychosomatic condition to explain the presence of a pain that ought not be there.

The return of the repressed is the returning to consciousness, in a disguised manner, some previous pain but now associated with a current event.  We hook material from the vast unconscious by looking for items that exist in that warehouse that can explain a current event.  

In this case we have a recent adoption of a foster child (pain of child birth).  The pain of child birth merges with the pain of the kidney stone until the consciousness mind does not know the difference. While the kidney stone has long been passed, the associated memory of child birth now remains in the unconscious associated with the process of adopting and caring for an older more difficult child.

As the organism begins to understand that it can not tolerate the disruption at age 66 of having a new baby, the organism fights the knowledge, because the fostering papers are signed and the new baby is at home.  it become clear that to care for this child will be impossible.  Every time the patient realizes that she will not have the courage to keep this baby, the return of the repressed comes forward filled with ancient incapacities, overwhelmed with ancient feelings that she could not cope with in the past.

In other words what was a kidney pain, is now a perpetual pain of giving birth…without the baby ever really being born.  Conflict over disappointing spouse and child mount in such a way that indicates that there is not an  easy way out of the situation.  The “birth” canal is blocked, the baby is never born, but the pain of giving birth is incessant.

You would think that the understanding of this psychosomatic condition would bring about some relief, but the knowledge that the repressed exist does not in any way alter the repressed from finding a crack in the pavement through which to attack the mind/body.

The body is being attacked with pain because pain is the body’s instinct to alert the organism that something is very wrong.  If you were to be able to put your hand in the fire and not feel the flames burn, you would disintegrate before your very eyes.  The pain of the burn makes a request of the mind to withdraw the hand from the flame.

But think further for a moment, what if a phantom pain is not being effective in warning the organism that it is burning alive.  The pain would continue and intensify.  Now if you add to this mix that the cause of the pain is not being removed you have a situation where the body is yelling—stop, stop, stop, but no one is listening.

The pain is saying you must make a change now–give birth, pull your hand out of the fire.  Do what it take to stop this insult on the body.  But to stop the insult on the body means to disappoint loved ones, the spouse and the newly adopted child.  So the very thought of making the change that needs to be made in order to eliminate the pain, brings about a conflict that rises the stress level and it is the stress level that then activates the pain.

In short the mechanism of pain to danger has become distorted in a new way…the pain of the original kidney stone is not the cause; but the distraction becomes informed in a new way that a new cause of danger is lurking.  In this case the complete conflict that it causes everyone to have to unmake a decision that everyone had counted on being a permanent decision.

Even though the problem is being addressed and this understanding is beginning to be seen with clarity; nonetheless, the source of the pain is still not eradicated.  The conflict is no longer, “I will have to do this which I can not do for the rest of my life and it may kill me”; the new conflict is, “I will be inflicting pain on people that I love when I have to  tell this child that that he will not be able to live here with us.”

So to recapture, first the kidney stone, then the foster adoption, then the cognition that,”I can not do this.”  This is followed by rummaging through the unc. to look for a similar situation to explain the pain….the child birth canal is blocked and the pain of giving birth continues as long as the child is not born. In this case, as long as the child is still there to remind the unconscious that the only thing that will change the situation is for the resolution to include that the child is delivered back to the center from which he came and a new home needs to be found….(the hand is pulled out of the fire)

From the very beginning the route that the pain took never changed, only different triggers set off the pain.  In its current manifestation as long as the boy has not been told and the situation does not change the “stone” pain will continue.

In the return of the repressed, every thing that ever made up loss and pain and abuse and suffering comes back to the surface to both overwhelm the organism and also to flood it with pain to remind it that unless the condition is not fully addressed the old circuitous route will remain in operation.

Consciousness and insight alone are not sufficient to bring about a cure.  What is needed is a complete belief that I am doing this to myself instead of doing what I need to be doing.  Once the pain route are activated by feelings, overwhelmed, fear, contrition, sorrow, grief, the pain will remain at the mercy of the emotional condition.

In the early 20th century when Hysteria was first confronted, the rate of hysterical conversion was astronomical compared to what it is today.  What cured the planet of hysteria was a common belief that it did not exist as a condition of the body but existed as a creation of the mind.

Such is true for the conversion of psychosomatic pain to a return to homeostasis.