Monday, February 12, 2007

Essay on Spiritual Transformation, part 2

People perceive each other and behave towards each other in terms of how that other person can be used to satisfy their need to defend against feeling their fears and insecurities, guilt or shame. We all use people to shore up and fortify our outer shell, to gain a feeling of security based on worldly pleasures and worldly attachments. This is not love. This actually precludes and impedes love. This is selfishness. No matter how nice and loving we may seem on the outside—the sole purpose of the interaction has at its root the selfish desire to protect oneself from pain, hurt, weakness, fear, insecurity, guilt, or shame. Often the unconscious intention is to appear loving and good, so as to gain approval from the person or from God, or to compensate for or cover over and hide an inner feeling of inadequacy. Here, again, the goal is to avoid appearing weak and needy, and to ward off feelings of weakness or fear. Although it is right to appear loving and good, if the motivation does not come from a felt realization and communion with the transcendent realms, then it originates in the self, and it only veils the self from the realms of grace.

(I should say there are times when a person can show altruistic love, compassion, and concern for another when there is no threat, such as when someone is showing weakness and neediness, during sickness, tragedy, etc. I believe there is this natural human love, but it is not totally pure and selfless--there is always some stain of self involved. Only God's love is totally pure, and without this love, there will never be a sense of being totally or completely loved and understood.)

There is a danger that measuring ourselves to a religious standard can reinforce feelings of inadequacy, when we realize that we don’t or can’t live up to these ideals and standards. Many of us have an inner critic that condemns us when we don’t live up to ideals we have imposed on ourselves, especially from religious training. When we haven’t experienced unconditional love and grace, when we don’t feel forgiven, we have the tendency to see religious laws and ideals as judgmental and punitive, which reinforces our original childhood wounds of feeling bad, wrong, guilty, and not good enough. Of course on the outside, we show the idealized self-image, how we think we are supposed to be. But inside there is shame, guilt, insecurity, and fear of punishment for not being good enough. We do anything to cover up these feelings of worthlessness and shame. We make it our life’s goal to ward off these seemingly life-destroying feelings. Who wants their life to topple and collapse in front of them? So a sense of security and stability is created through the outer life, so that one can remain stable and semi-peaceful, while warding off the inner pain.

One of our biggest fears is public ridicule or humiliation. We definitely don’t want someone or a group of people to make fun of us in public. This we defend against with our very lives. For this alone we would spend our lives creating a mask, in order to not have to feel the pain of a public mocking. Many adults were mistreated or ridiculed as children by their classmates, peers, or even parents, and they carry the wounds of these torments. As a coping mechanism, these adults can be seen occasionally attacking or ridiculing others, as a way to compensate for the unhealed wounds and hurts they have inside—as memories of our past hurts are carried within us.

When we allow ourselves to feel our pain and unhealed wounds, we will be forced to attempt to heal them, and we will want to receive and feel the love we did not get as children and do not receive in our daily lives. We hide these wounds because there is no love in us which would heal the pain. So what else can we do in order to function through the day? We cannot walk around emotionally bleeding around everyone, so we create walls and defenses, and put a nice false self around the whole inner mess, and we go about our business. That works as long as you keep warding off all your pain, and keep manipulating your mind and your circumstances so as to not run into any bumps on the road. Inevitably, we come up against the truth that this world and its struggles have an eternal counterpart, a realm within which is sanctified from the changes and chances of life. When we feel pain, the mature soul will crave the eternal, sanctified realm, and will cry out to God for His presence and ask to be taken into His love. When we experience His love, not only as an intellectual truth, but as a bodily-felt experience, there will indeed be healing. The healing needs to go deep, so we need to feel and experience God's love deeply. This occurs as a result of our own practice of accessing the parts of ourselves which are normally hidden. When we bring to light these hidden 'demons', they become exposed to the light of truth and awareness, and then we can bring God's remedy to these 'dark' aspects. You will see that the light will transmute this darkness, and without repressing our feelings, we will change ourselves, and we will see a new creature--a spiritual being--emerge within us. This being is created by God—but we allowed ourselves to be transformed and we gave up our hidden aspects and brought them to His threshold for transmutation and purification.

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