When we talk about psychosis, spiritual emergence, or any of the many different labels that fall under the umbrella of mental illness, we are really talking about the eruption of truth. Capital “T” kind of truth.
We are talking about the unshackling and often destructive rebellion of the soul, against the oppression of the false ego, the lies of the mind, and the dysfunctional abusive and inauthentic patterns of relating.
This eruption is violent, not in the material sense of causing external physical harm to others, but rather its emergence destroys the web of lies that have kept the person oppressed. It destroys the conditioning, the abusive relationships, the false loyalties, and indoctrination that keep us stuck. The revelations of truth, to the experiencer and those around him, plunge everything into a chaotic anarchy, just as any political rebellion would.
This chaos is hard, and scary, and causes the oppressors (sometimes other people, sometimes the mind itself) to become even more authoritative and tyrannical. Oppressors, (within and without) who feel their power threatened, never react well to such eruptions. They try to quell the rebellion by any force necessary. Thus maintaining of the status quo becomes of paramount importance, as everyone is horrified by the implications of the truth.
The truth is ugly. The truth is shameful. The truth hurts, a lot, and requires real change. Few are willing to go there. An urgent and immediate return to “normal” is what is sought, but to the experiencer (to his soul), such efforts are silly, meaningless, and provide only an illusion of safety and comfort.
Once he has seen and experienced his truth, he knows that there can be no real return to what was before. Thus begins the very long, painful, often solitary, complicated journey to healing.
Honoring the truth, surrendering to truth, and finding the path forward is the very Hero’s Journey that we all admire and aspire to. It means leaving what we thought we knew behind, for a wilderness of the unknown.
Most often alone and afraid, we venture forth. And just as the sages have told us for centuries, with each step forward, somehow magically, somehow synchronistically, the path just appears. We realize that we are guided, supported, and something unknown and unseen is rooting for us. The battles are hard. The terrain and darkness are astounding. The demons and monsters are very very real.
And while the purpose isn’t winning in the normal sense (it’s rather the way in which we do battle that really matters), the journey becomes the very purpose and meaning of our lives.
A couple of months ago a new energetic force arrived in my life.
On top of all the different energies surrounding my strange existence, this was something different. Uninvited and unannounced, it came into my life and took me on an extremely difficult and painful journey into the depths of darkness. It is both a sacred journey, and one I wouldn’t wish upon another living being. Ever.
You can call it an “ego trip,” but not in the usual sense. Slowly and methodically, following some invisible plan, this energy of darkness took me on a regressive ride back to childhood. Part healing, part training, it felt like my consciousness was aggressively yanked backwards, against my will, to revisit the entire formation of my ego.
A little bit of background first: There are a lot of misconceptions about what the “ego” is. In spiritual circles, it’s something bad that needs to be avoided, rejected, killed or transcended (depending on which tradition you follow). Lots of people mistakenly conflate the ego, with the entire personality or self, which creates a lot of confusion. And the entheogenic folks use the term “ego death” as a threshold marker for the mystical realms; also somewhat inaccurate.
In my view, it’s relatively straightforward.
The ego is the false self. It is a solidified network of beliefs in the subconscious mind, which generates thoughts, feelings, reactions, and patterns of behavior into the conscious mind and personality. It’s not bad, per se. But left unattended it leads to a lot of suffering in life. In essence, it is a program (like in a computer) of coping mechanisms that we develop, for living in a world where being yourself is not acceptable. Ego is the mask we learn to wear, because we’re too afraid to be real and vulnerable. Ego is the person you believe you should be (or must be in order to be loved and accepted), rather than the person you actually are.
Ego takes shape in response to experiences during the formative childhood years, and hardens and reinforces itself over time. The more rejection you encounter, the more fear, judgement, criticism, shame, and trauma that is inflicted upon you, the bigger or stronger the ego becomes. Like an armor or a shield, it is meant to protect you against an emotionally dangerous world. It is made up of lots of defense mechanisms.
The real self, the personality you were born with, gets buried deeper and deeper until it’s completely repressed. Without awareness, most people have no inkling of their real self. They identify with the program running in their subconscious mind, believing that that’s just who they are. They wear a kind of false mask to face the world, and live out the dictates of this subconscious program. Most people live without conscious awareness of this program their entire lives.
(There is some philosophical debate about whether there is even a real authentic self at the core or not. The argument is that even the very process of birth effects the personality and conditions it in some way, so there is no absolute personality at all. My view of this is that there is very much a real self (small s); but it’s not consistent or definable. It’s a mutable feeling sense. It’s not something that can be conceptualized or described. It’s something you feel, not exactly something the mind understands. There is an authentic self, but there is no self concept attached to it. You can’t reduce the truth of the authentic self into words, because it’s too fluid in its expression. It doesn’t conform to anything consistent. The fact that it’s amorphous doesn’t make it non-existent, it only makes it indescribable.)
[There is a deeper aspect of ego, a set of drives, that aren’t inherently part of the false self. It has to do with how love is sourced – internally vs externally. That’s the top-level organizing logic of all the various inclinations. But that is a much more complicated area, and one I will write about at some point later because I haven’t thought it through well enough to articulate].
Anyway, for most people, all the real spiritual work is an undoing of this false ego self. Not because it’s bad, but because it stands in the way of authentic expression, joy, happiness, and satisfaction in life. Ego causes lots and lots of emotional suffering. With love and awareness (and the proper tools) the initial dismantling of the false self is not that difficult. Different spiritual traditions approach the dismantling differently, but at the core that’s what spirituality is really about – the shedding of the false self, so that the real self can be fully expressed and liberated. The entire methodology of the chakra energy system is built around this goal – getting a person into authentic alignment and expression. When he is in alignment with his real self, all the chakras are in proper balance. (It’s also the central goal of the kundalini process – shedding the false self so the authentic self can emerge and live freely. This is what true liberation is all about).
As I see it, if a person isn’t doing the inner discovery work to shed this false mask (by healing the wounds that created it), if he isn’t striving to live more authentically every day, with more self-love and acceptance, more in alignment with his true nature, then he isn’t spiritual at all. He doesn’t actually understand what spirituality is all about.
Despite what passes for spirituality in the mainstream these days, in my opinion, there are few people who understand this fully. Meditation is not enough. Mindfulness is not enough. Yoga is not enough. Talking about esoteric mysteries, and love and light are not enough. Ayahuasca ceremonies are not enough. And even having a fully active kundalini is not enough. It takes conscious effort and disciplined awareness practice (deep deep self discovery work) to really make a difference with actual results; actual transformations in consciousness that work from the inside out. Everything else, to me, is just pomp and circumstance. Pretty forms without any substance.
I’ve gone off on a tangent again. Sorry. I’ll save the preaching for another post. Let me get back to my story…
So I’ve been practicing this form of contemplative inquiry for several years, which aims at discovery and shedding the false self, while building courage to express the authentic self properly. I’ve done a lot of discovery work, a lot of childhood stuff, and tons of healing over the last few years. And having reached particular milestones, (ego death, higher self, etc.) I felt confident in my own process, in my own healing work, and in my work with others.
And then in November, without much warning, amidst a bunch of other strange experiences, this really dark energy took me over. It literally felt like darkness descended upon me. I couldn’t shake it. It was heavy and thick, and debilitating. It plunged me down into a special sort of hell; simultaneously torturous and sacred. I’ve dealt with tremendous pain before, but this… this was totally different.
This energy asked me to apply all of the tools, discipline, and strength I had, until there was nothing left. Day after day, in indescribable psychic pain, I was shown how my ego, my false self, was formed. I got to visit every single one of the places I was hurt, shamed, criticized, rejected, abandoned and unloved. All of the relevant crucial moments where my childhood self internalized the words and actions of others, believing herself to be deeply unacceptable as she was, and forming a more acceptable version of herself (my false self), in order to be loved, accepted, and safe; all of it came alive again before my eyes.
Most people, everyone who has even a modicum of self-awareness, will tell you that their childhood was painful and difficult. Subjectively, mine was as well. It’s a socially conditioned illusion that childhood is some idyllic wonderful carefree time. It’s not; not for anyone, regardless of circumstance. Even the children of the most loving and evolved parents will collect wounding, ego conditioning, and (subjectively) traumatic experiences of rejection. It’s unavoidable. It’s the very purpose of incarnating into human form – to accumulate pain, and then learn from that pain.
And so for the last two months, I have had a front row seat in my own life review. Every day, multiple times a day, I would receive the internal energetic signal that there was work to do. I’d sit down to investigate the arising thoughts and emotions (intense feelings of shame, fear, guilt, anger, despair, anxiety, depression), and each time I’d trace them all the way back to the moment of their creation. I would then fully re-live and emotionally re-feel the ancient experience, in its entirety. It felt as if I was holding my inner child in my arms, as she took me through everything she’d ever felt; every place that she learned she was unacceptable. There are no words to describe the pain of this. There are just no words…
Sometimes I’d have to revisit the same memories multiple times, each time with a slightly different vantage point and perspective. This is what’s known as the spiral effect in healing. You go over the same thing again and again, each time at a deeper level of awareness and understanding. Kind of like a downward spiral. This was all happening to me; as if according to some divine schedule. It wasn’t something I was orchestrating or directing. Even after all of the magical things I’ve experienced so far, most days I couldn’t believe what was happening to me.
And as I’ve been shown over the last few years, resisting this work and these lessons only causes more pain. If ignored or resisted, Kundalini will ratchet up the pain with all kinds of physical symptoms until one comes into compliance. There is no way out of the pain, but through it. In this arena, the concept free will becomes something of a joke. Seeing all of this, and feeling all of it, you come to understand that you were never in control to begin with…
During these months, it became physically painful to talk to other people (not that there are many people who could understand and accept what was happening to me). I became energetically sensitive in a devastating new way. I felt completely raw and exposed, like all my insides were now on the outside. I’ve had phases of this experience before, (being turned inside out) but never quite like this. If I wasn’t actively crying, then I was on the brink of tears all the time. In that kind of extreme vulnerability (with all the spiritual components) there is almost no one who has the capacity to offer the right kind of presence, compassion, or support. Other people’s well-meaning attempts to cheer me up, or offer me advice or opinions, felt like nails on a chalkboard; only making me withdraw further inward. And so I spent these months in almost complete isolation and seclusion. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t interact with anyone. I could barely make it off the couch to walk the dog.
Led by nothing but intuitive guidance and synchronistic signs, there were moments when I really didn’t know if I’d make it through this alive. My faith was severely tested. My sanity barely hanging by a thread. The psychological crisis points were so acute that words don’t convey the magnitude of it. It is an other-worldly sort of pain that I can’t explain. The only real solace was an inner knowing that this is okay and necessary. It’s part of the healing process. It was as if living through it, I was also observing it happen. There was an internal separation between the one experiencing this, and another awareness watching and learning.
Through this process I was offered a map of the darkness; like a guidebook (built on the foundation of all the prior spiritual processes I’ve developed). I was shown how absolutely every single thing we think and feel is childhood itself; being reflected for us like a mirror image, for our spiritual growth. It’s so divinely intelligent and intricately beautiful in its design, that it would leave you awed and speechless if you could see it in all its glory (without the pain, of course).
The healing protocol works like this: If you can stay with the emotional reaction long enough, investigate it fully with spiritual awareness, find the roots of what’s being reflected, apply love, compassion, and wisdom to that pain, and allow those old emotions to move through you – the wound heals itself. That’s it. It’s really rather simple. It’s also really really unpleasant. But there is a magical component to the healing that makes it all worth it. (Not that I have much of a say in the matter).
If this is done correctly, when you think back to that memory again there should be no emotional charge. You see the scars, but there is no internal movement in the emotional body. Sure enough, at some later point something in the external reality will come along to retrigger that wound (something that would have sent you into a strong reaction before), and internally nothing happens. That’s how you know the wound is healed.
Over time, with practice, you can heal all of the wounding in this way.
Over the last few days, it appears that my journey of this darkness is finally coming to an end. There have been significant shifts in consciousness that feel “back to normal.” (I use the word “normal” very loosely…). I’m not sure that I’m totally out of the dark just yet, but this phase appears to be coming to an end. The blissful mystical and transcendent experiences have returned. It feels very much like this darkness has been lifting, and I feel more and more stable and grounded again. Yesterday I could envision talking to other humans without a feeling of aversion. A good sign, I dare say.
Despite the pain, there is an incredible sense of reverence and gratitude for the experience. And there is a new really profound level of peace accompanying this re-emergence. The deeply buried fears and anxieties that I carried my entire life are gone. All the future planning, worrying, needing-to-know-and-control-things thoughts are gone. There are virtually no attachments to anything, even less than there were before. There are still some remnants of old stuff arising, but nowhere near the intensity of the last few months.
Mostly there is now a kind of surrendered repose in the present moment, and finally (finally!) a growing sense of excitement about what’s ahead. I am cautiously glad to be coming back to normal.
I wish I had some kind of graceful way to end this post, but I don’t. So be it.
I shared this video a while ago on Facebook. It’s a talk given by Caroline Myss some years ago called “Why People Don’t Heal.” In case you didn’t get a chance to watch it then, or aren’t into watching it now, here it is in print format.
I think it takes a lot of courage on Caroline’s part, to talk so directly about this somewhat sensitive issue. I wanted to bring some more attention to this, as I’ve seen this dynamic in my work as well.
Simply put, one important reason that some people don’t heal from trauma, illness, or emotional suffering, is because they get stuck in their own victim-hood; their story of pain becomes deeply enmeshed with their sense of identity, and they cannot let go of their stories or move through to healing. Often this is accompanied by lots of self-pity, and martyrdom patterns. To them, letting go of their victim story feels like annihilation, that’s how serious this issue is.
We all know that avoiding dealing with your pain can cause more pain. This is the other side of the spectrum; these are the professional victims. (There is a pejorative quality to that term, intentionally.). The people who are prone to doing this learn how to hold on tightly to their wounds and use them, in a rather manipulative way, even if they don’t consciously intend to do so. This has the effect of draining vital spiritual and emotional energy from themselves, and from those around them.
Any attempt to move people like this out of their pain and victim stories is received as callous and lacking in compassion. You can offer lots of alternatives, and compassionate patient loving kind help, but they will find ways to sabotage that help and then blame you for being insensitive. It can be very frustrating and painful to watch someone you care about become entrenched in their own misery.
This is a telling, somewhat extreme, example from the article:
I met one woman, for instance, who stated upon our introduction that the “rules” of being a friend to her began with agreeing to “honor her wounds.” When I asked her to tell me what that meant in practical terms, she said that she was only now beginning to process all of the violations that had happened to her as a child and that in the course of healing these wounds, she would frequently have mood swings and bouts of depression. “Honoring her wounds” meant respecting these moods, not challenging them. She claimed the right to set the tone of any social event of which she was a part. If she was in a “low space,” she expected her support system not to introduce humor into the atmosphere but to adjust their mood and conversation to hers. I asked her how long she anticipated needing this intense level of support. “It may take years,” she replied, “and if it does, I expect my support system to give me that amount of time.“
The reality is that wounds need to be attended to. The victim stories need to be honored; consciously, subconsciously, and all the way down to their source in childhood. But then those wounds need to be processed and healed. Forgiveness needs to be found. And the person has to let go of the victim story. Otherwise, he becomes something of an energetic vampire, constantly (even if unintentionally) pulling on the sympathy, pity, and attention from others.
Spirit does not support this kind of victim mentality, that’s why healing can’t happen for a person in this state of mind.
People don’t heal, because subconsciously they don’t intend to heal. They are often unaware of their own attachment to suffering, and the psychological payoff that suffering brings them. (It’s a way they get love, a way they feel safe, a way they dominate interactions and generate a sense of importance. It’s all designed to feed the ego.)
And when you point it out to them, as Caroline describes in the article, they become extremely defensive. I’ve encountered lots and lots of people in the last few years who love their suffering. They glorify it endlessly and with great fanfare, and they glorify the suffering of others as well. Any attempt to reduce suffering or offer alternatives in a compassionate (but direct) way is met with hostility. Not just from the sufferer, but from the enablers as well.
I was in an online support group a few months ago, having a conversation about healing trauma. We were talking about the merits of different therapeutic approaches, and whether a person could administer the therapy himself, or whether he would need a facilitator. Out of nowhere, a woman interjected aggressively, saying that she knows trauma better than anyone, and no one can begin to know trauma like hers. (They always seem to have this kind of monopoly on suffering). And since her trauma makes her the ultimate expert and authority on this topic, she let us all know that we were wrong, and that none of what we were talking about could ever work. (It does work, and has worked for lots of people.) But the aggressive nature of her interjection quickly shut down the entire conversation. And yet, unsurprisingly, the very next day, this same woman, shared in the group that she’s experiencing suicidal depression, and she’s been in tremendous suffering for 20+ years, and no one can ever seem to help her out of her pain…
I want to say here that I’m not indifferent to suffering; as I’ve written about lots and lots of it here. Without recounting a litany of stories that will solidify my status as someone who knows about trauma, I’ll just say that I have had my fair share of pain. Catastrophic levels of pain which, thanks to my spiritual work, I’ve been acutely re-living and re-feeling and healing, step by step, for the last few years. Pain and trauma happen to be subjective – what was painful and traumatic for one person, is not necessarily so for another. That’s why comparisons of “who had it worse” are rather silly.
But the one thing I’m shown over and over again is that you have to want to heal, and take complete responsibility for that healing, and you have to be your own advocate in that healing. You have to make every possible self-reliant effort to heal.
Healing isn’t something we actually have control over the way we assume. Healing comes from Grace. Healing is a gift given to us by Spirit. There is a sacred element to how it happens and when. It works in cooperation with the person – we do our part, and Spirit does its part. But within the sphere of what we can control, we have to do everything we can and focus our intentions as directly as possible towards that end. Emotional wounds don’t heal on their own. It takes time and effort to move towards healing.
The people described in Caroline’s article, and those I’ve met along my path, don’t have the determination or commitment to marshal their inner resources, and to pull themselves up and out of their pain. They are deeply deeply attached to their victim stories. Sometimes you can hear a sort of helplessness that accompanies their mental state “I can’t do it on my own. I want someone to do it for me.” They sit around and wait for someone else to initiate the process, while they take the time to wallow in misery. (But then when someone does come along and says “come on, I’ll walk with you through this. I know the way,” that too is rejected.)
The truth is: if you don’t do it for yourself, no one can ever do it for you. No doctor, no pill, no famous shaman, no magic spell.
This is, of course, not to say that you shouldn’t seek help and support when you need it. You should. Traditional therapies or spiritual or holistic approaches, it doesn’t matter. There are lots of resources (free resources) available for healing these days. But you have to really really want to heal, and to let go of all the egoic benefits that are attached to victimhood. The process isn’t easy. You have to be willing to confront the pain and the darkness, and take responsibility for a lot of unpleasant stuff. It requires that you be the one who is most committed to your own freedom from suffering. You have to want it for yourself, and you have to want it more than wanting someone else to come and rescue you out of your pain.
This is a compilation of my comments on a discussion about past life regression. I think they are worth reposting here. I’ve spent several years studying and exploring this form of therapy. It can be a very powerful tool for healing. In addition to the practice, reading the works of past life therapists has been transformational in many ways. I’ve included some of Brian Weiss’ books (and Michael Newton’s books) in the reading list page (link is in the menu bar above).
I’ve done a lot of past life regression work with Brian Weiss’ video, and I recommend it to others all the time. I’ve personally experienced incredible results, and I’ve seen it work for others as well.
For me, every experience of it was very different; and I found that asking specific questions beforehand (with the intention to heal those aspects) is most effective. I’ve seen past lives; I’ve seen repressed childhood memories surface; I’ve gotten messages from deceased family members; I’ve accessed spiritual realms; and I was once given a symbolic message that, with a little digging, uncovered a huge aspect of my childhood that I wasn’t aware of. In my experience, when used correctly, with the proper intentions, it’s a wonderful tool!
I have some additional theories and observations about this topic, but they are anecdotal, so take them with a grain of salt.
It seems that the regressions only work when they are supposed to. Meaning, I’ve tried to do it “out of curiosity,” or sometimes two days in a row, or tried to make something happen, and that doesn’t work. There is some sacred quality to it – it is to be approached with a certain respect and reverence. I am only “allowed” to go there when there is something for me to see. And I’m only shown what I need to see for healing, not what I want to see. It’s definitely not recreational.
It took a few tries before I was able to really trust it and surrender to it completely – only then the really powerful messages came through. I was very scared and nervous the first few times, and that seems to stand in the way of “going there.” As I understand hypnosis, it’s a deeper level of meditation. So I have to allow myself to really relax and let go, and allow myself to be taken by it, which was a little scary at first. Laying down and really letting my body sink into whatever I’m laying on helps a lot. When I got used to it, each experience became much more productive.
Once something is initiated (visions, emotional experiences, memories…), I follow the experience fully and tune out the guided words completely. If something is offered, then I try to allow as much of it as I can, without cutting off the experience to follow the meditation. I have to let go of control, and get out of the driver’s seat as much as possible, for the more authentic experiences.
Most past life “karma,” the unprocessed traumas and wounds are repeated here, in this life, often in childhood. Experiences are reproduced as reflections, so that we may have a chance to work them out to resolution this time. I tend to suggest that people “look here first.” It’s easier to heal what’s here (buried in the subconscious), than by rooting around in a past life, and all of those variables. It’s the more responsible, less romanticizing, way to go about healing. Bringing up past lives and related material presents way more questions than it answers. So there’s no need to open that can of worms unnecessarily, when the healing is available here, via the content in this life. On the other hand, when you are stuck, a regression can be tremendously helpful to bring insight and clarity so that you can go further in your discovery.