If a great part of my impulse to anger is rooted in childhood wounding, as I’ve been exploring these past weeks, then the other great part arises from my present impulse to protect. Both forms of anger are largely defensive, as perhaps all anger is, but while my wounded reactivity is a largely unconscious and ultimately doomed attempt to go back in time and fix my own past, in defense of that young child who got so hurt, my present protectivity is much more about drawing clear boundaries, meeting real needs, “containing the psychopath,” warding off the blows, walking away, or standing to fight in defense of those I love.
Or can be. And that has been the key, for me: learning to tease these two types of anger apart.
While my “ranting and raging” has often been about my own unhealed attempts to be understood and wanted by my family of origin, it has also been, to a very great extent, rooted in my grief, shock, and appalled disbelief over the destruction of the living world around me. Though I can be somewhat indifferent to plants, and to most people whom I do not know, my attention keys in on the land and sea and sky and animals, and my heart breaks to see them in pain. I walk daily amongst the crows and gulls and skunks and deer, and look to the sea in the summer for signs of whales and seals. I soak up the clean salt air and stare up at the sky and the stars. I lean into the wind and tramp through the snow and walk barefoot whenever I can, relishing the feel of grass and mud and ice and gravel between my toes, grounding and connection for my soles. Having been one of the “last children in the woods,” I grew to love the land and the forests and the sun and the voices of the many “others” who fly and flit and flash about me as I make my way through the world. And so “God Made a Farmer” evokes my anger not only because modern agriculture is about the control, domination, exploitation, and imprisonment of those whom I love, but because it is a large factor in their death and destruction. In some very real ways, modern agriculture is a primary fuel for the fire that is burning us toward that “mid-century extinction” I’ve been pondering. It needs to be deeply questioned. That Dodge Trucks commercial is full of lies.
These days, my protective energies focus mostly on my wife, Sally. Those few who have grown to know Sally well over the years know what I have come to know: Sally is a force of nature herself. She has her own wounded, reactive ego, to be sure, but she works daily to set that aside, so that she can fully connect with her best, most good and essential self and channel her gifts for healing in the wider world. She’s creative in the face of need or resistance and able to step fully into acceptance, or charge determinedly into challenge, as the situation warrants. She finds few things in the world that she cannot figure out and do for herself, but her greatest love is for conversation, connection, and collaboration. She cares deeply for her fellow humans, the compliment to my own caring energies, and can step into empathy and resonance with practiced ease. Whether she’s counseling others, partnering with me on my writing or filmmaking, building a greenhouse, reclaiming her body, or starting a business, she approaches every moment of her life as another step on her spiritual journey, as an opportunity to grow, mature, evolve, and transcend. She’s without a doubt the most conscious human soul I have ever had the privilege to know. It feels like much of my role now is to protect her.
In part, Sally needs to be protected from her own wounded ego. She can easily “give it all away,” to the point of harming or undermining herself. And when attacked or violated, her great power can get channeled through a quick, hot, fierce anger that can cut right to the heart of those who, like me, were raised in “nice,” conflict-avoidance family systems. Interrupting such reactions and helping her reconnect with her true adult power has become a significant part of my work here.
But she also needs protection from “the other.” Power, heart, and clarity such as she displays can be both alluring and threatening to those with whom she comes into contact. Sally’s X-ray gaze can see right into people’s hearts, and her courageous words can shine through pretense and games and beliefs and stories and bring to clear light the truth of their lives in ways that are undeniable. Many come to Sally seeking exactly this, but for others, this can feel terrifying. Forced to confront their own woundedness, many people, compelled by the core of shame of which Brene Brown speaks, lash out, project, or blame. And Sally, wounded deeply in her own childhood, can sometimes get knocked off center for a moment, disempowered, lost, confused, and disheartened. Watching over Sally as she interfaces with the outer world, and noticing what she may not, constitutes another significant part of my work here.
As Graham Hancock said in a recent post,
I drifted into thoughts about my relationship with my wife Santha, how I am so blessed to have her in my life, how she is in fact a goddess who manifests in human form and how incredibly privileged I am that she permits me to go through this incarnation with her and learn from her how to be a better human being. And I realized how so much of our life together has been very selfishly about ME, about my work, my creativity, my concerns, and it was brought home to me with the force of a revelation that the next stage of our partnership has to be about HER and that my role now is to be of service to her and help her in every way possible to express and manifest her own wonderful creative gifts and to fulfill herself.
We speak often, Sally and I, of anger, ranting, truth-telling, expectations and cruelty, triage and investment and our response-ability in these matters. Every morning finds us drinking coffee for an hour or two, as we “sit in the nest” and speak what’s in our hearts and minds. While I could go a hundred different directions at this point, I think for now I’ll simply notice a few things and leave it at that…
-It feels to me like protecting Sally and protecting the life of this world are one and the same. Another way of saying that might be that, in the matter of learning, or relearning, as a culture, to love, cherish, protect, and commune with the planet and its living beings now being destroyed by our out-of-balance lifestyle, that work can be done as easily in our human relationships as it can be done in “the natural world.” It may be that, if we cannot learn to love, respect, cherish, protect, and serve both ourselves and other humans, we cannot step fully into the sorts of relationships with the rest of the Cosmos that we long for, and which Sustainability™ might require.
-There’s an underlying assumption here that Sally needs protection, which points to the underlying assumption that “the world” needs protection. I’m not saying these assumptions are true or false. I’m simply pointing out that they are assumptions worthy of our notice and examination. Can Sally’s essential self ever really be hurt? Is it only her overlay of ego/personality/monkey mind/whatever you want to call it that can get hurt? Does that need to be protected? And how about “the world”? These questions deserve long deliberation, in my opinion.
-Beneath these assumptions are assumptions of vulnerability and separation, the idea that we can be hurt, really, or that we are separate from each other. These point to more foundational assumptions about materialism, time, space, life, death, and everything. Again, I put them here only as assumptions, to be held up for examination and worthy of deep dialogue.
-And my interest in examining these assumptions relates back to what I said early on: I wish to tease apart that aspect of my anger that is unconscious and reactive and that aspect which is clear and conscious and present-based. My reactive anger feels clouded and childish and dirty, and tends to get me into more trouble. My clear adult impulses to protect and serve feel clean and whole and mature, and tend to pull me into my most powerful, initiated, adult human self.
In the end, wherever this crazy world is taking me, I intend to meet it as a mature, sane, and empowered adult human soul, rather than a reactive, wounded adolescent hiding out in a grown-up body. This has been my work since I first awakened to “our present predicament.” The work continues. That “work” will likely never be finished. I hope not. But that is another story altogether.
I may not make it to the lab next week. Time will tell. Tim will tell. Sally’s Vejibag launch party approaches, and her Kickstarter campaign, and there is so much to do to serve those ends. I’ll write as that work allows.
Until then, pax,