Archive | January, 2015

Inner or Outer Weather? Some Thoughts on our Emotional Lives

22 Jan

Metaphorically speaking, as humans we experience outer storms and inner ones. The National Weather Service sends out alerts for winter storm warnings, for tornado watches, for the courses of hurricanes — all to give us time to “batten down the hatches,” to protect our property and to leave an area of imminent weather upheaval.

We have made substantial progress in dealing with some of the worst storms, although not all. We have also made astounding progress in technology, which affords us the ability to make better decisions in a variety of situations. Just the fact that we can navigate an unknown environment to arrive at a specific destination without even committing any information to paper was a thing unknown a decade ago. And now in 2015 we can track our own health — our blood pressure, our physical activity, the number of steps we walk, our sleep patterns, even an ear infection — on our Smart Phone. All these are helpful tools, but they are external to our essential being. By contrast to the ease of resetting our IPhone (part of our external environment), we find that the hardest to “control” is the inner!

Some would say that in exploring the universe, we are really reaching for the last frontier. But I say that the human brain is the last frontier, and consciousness is just over the border! Through psychotherapy we attempt to utilize the powers of the unconscious mind — what Carl G. Jung called the Self — to tap into the riches of Inner Space. We look at our dreams to be astounded by the metaphors, stories, and puns with the greater Self has created to get us in touch with who we are, what our passions are, what dangers we may face (internal and external!), and which parts of ourselves can bring us to greater realization of our true Self.

Sometimes we utilize Clinical Hypnosis to help our bodies relax and to allow our minds to grasp a healing concept which will make all the difference in our attitude. Remember the old phrase, “You need an attitude adjustment”? Our attitude originates with our outlook — or perception — of the world around us. Our outlook, the way we perceive a “transaction,” may almost be a knee-jerk reaction to an experience. We may perceive someone of a different racial or ethnic group as “shady” because that has been handed down to us through generations, or because we have seen films that portray certain groups in this way. In these cases, there is no reflection on what we perceive in a given situation.

If, however, we reflect on our perceptions, our examination may yield such fruitful results as patience, forgiveness, acceptance or even compassion!

An outward focus leaves us prey to societal ideas about success, based mainly on finance and economics. Sure, we can come up with numbers to represent a satisfactory income or one which would signify prosperity. I imagine a “middle class” income of about $100,000 would bespeak success for many people. And there are other factors which play into outward success: recognition, or even fame, plus the ability to exercise power over others. This kind of power might be termed “buying power.  Or it could be the power to hire employees and dictate how these folks spend much of their waking hours.

This kind of success may help some forget the “monsters” out there: the members of your family who are an embarrassment; the lies you may have told to achieve the measure of “success” you currently enjoy; the fact that laws and economics can change and you may lose those material possessions and the perception of power you exercise; the real possibility that someone you love can fall ill; the legacy you are leaving; the fact that you will die. The outer trappings of success often allow folks to be in denial of the emptiness within. The American dream can be almost as hypnotic as watching the gaming machines at a casino and hearing the jingling noises as the wheels spin and the coins spill out. If the American dream consists merely of a comfy home with a new car in the garage, a spouse and two wage-earner incomes, a yearly exotic vacation — where does that leave us? Where is the meaning, where the courage, the determination, the hope, and all the other spiritual values?

We must examine Inner Spacse. We must get to know our many selves. We must confront our feelings and reflect on them to move forward on the path Jung called individuation. This is a path which leads to the ability to look back and affirm that we did indeed receive and give love; that we inspired others; that we laughed and had fun with them; that we learned to be patient, caring, and compassionate.

Our inner life is rich and vast. There is no end to the process of getting to know ourselves or of getting to know our significant other. I think particularly of getting to know the Inner Child, who lives close to our heart. S/he has many aspects, including the wounded or hurt child; the sad child; the angry child; the joyful child, just to name a few. Bringing the experiences of the Inner Child to light is a work of patience and humility. But we are to go further by working and playing with this special person whom we are discovering.

More to come. … Please send along your thoughts!