We are born as a spontaneous expression of life. But then something happens. When we are forcibly separated from or punished by our parents, when we receive the message a million times over that what we are doing is not right, when we are required to be obedient to external authority, when all of that happens the “me” is born.
The me we learn to be is the Deficient Me.
Unlike the baby that is a spontaneous expression of life possessing nothing, the Deficient Me does possess something – it possesses attributes that are not right. This is the Wound. Those people that made our life possible also wound us and the result is the Deficient Me.
The Deficient Me is the source of all our suffering and among its key qualities is that of possession. Instead of expressing Life naturally and spontaneously, we now possess qualities that make us broken.
And what does this broken me seek? It seeks healing.
But here’s the kicker: because the broken me was never real in the first place, it can never be healed! This is the truth that we need to absorb and acknowledge.
This is the seemingly cruel irony of seeking. It can never cease until we become awake to the illusory nature of the false me.
First, we must see and acknowledge that healing is not a possibility. So we must stop everything we do to heal or improve this broken me. The effort we invest in fixing what isn’t real is a total waste of time – actually it’s worse than a waste of time because it sustains the belief in the illusory me.
Second, we must see that how this broken me arises in consciousness is not something we can stop as a consequence of our will. Our very expression of will is really an efforting of the broken me.
Third, the persona that believes in the broken me is the broken me. We must stop believing that this me is who we are. As we stop believing, we start seeing. The seeing was always present, but the belief was an add-on. Now we just see.
Seeing is the natural/spontaneous expression of life as life. This seeing cannot suffer, although it can and will experience physical pain. The seeing can and will experience everything as seeing.
Each of us was born as a perfect Authentic Being. But even before we could think in words, we were subjected to the trauma of separation. I call this trauma the Wound. This Wound tells us that we are somehow not right – that we are inadequate, insufficient, and unworthy of love.
Because the Wound is so painful, we develop Fear-Selves, personas designed to prove our adequacy, sufficiency, and lovability. We become obedient, ambitious, grandiose.
This is the life of pain. To escape the pain, our lives become committed to constant searching – searching for the Fear-Self that will finally relieve our inner confusion and lack. This is a strategy doomed to failure, for no Fear-Self can accommodate the ever-changing events of life that will repeatedly expose our Wound of separation.
When we believe in the religion of separation, then the one fundamental aspect of our existence is conflict. We have to look out for “number 1”. We are ceaselessly asking, “What’s in it for me?” It’s “my side must defeat his side”, “my religion is the one true faith”, “my country is the best country”, “gays are sinners”, “children must be punished”, etc. This is the language of separation.
The first step in wisdom is to see how the religion of separation conditions our life – even in this very moment. We see how we divide ourselves from others.
For most of the human story, people have seen themselves within the vast web of being that includes everything: the air, water, rock, plants, and animals. It was a complex web of trust that was understood in the most simple and direct way.
You are that fun and joy right now, but your faith in the religion of separation separates you from that experience.
We are like a person treading water in a dangerous sea – always scrambling for a lifesaver to drift our way. Whether it be anxiety or depression, we become firmly attached to the belief in an external condition that will, temporarily, free of us of our distress. Anytime this belief is prominent (as is true for most of us), we will live our lives in fear and anxiety. When we live our life this way we will never have the opportunity to express our authentic self. We feel that all the power resides outside of us and we are helpless.
We believe the many voices in our mind that tell us what matters, those thoughts that generate and sustain the toxic fear that governs our everyday existence. We are slaves to the mass of fear-based thoughts that circulate in our consciousness.
It is to this very desperate, deeply conflicted person that religion and patriotism extend their very “helpful” hands. In our moments of deepest vulnerability, they inform us that they will answer our questions, they will become our partners in this ever-threatening world. Thus we learn to take sides in this life. It’s either for us or against us. It’s survival of the fittest. To the most powerful go the riches. This is one of the sources of deep violence, hatred, and division.
When our sense of ourselves is incomplete we want a god to be there for us. When we embrace a moral code that condemns the behaviors of others as wrong, evil, sinful, we want “our” god to bring justice to them. We will do innumerable horrors in his name because our god is not real and we know that unless we act in his name, nothing will happen and our bloodlust will go unfulfilled. Acts of horror are always done in the name of our invalidated identity. The vacuum of inner powerlessness gets filled with belief, faith, and hunger. Violence ensues and for a moment we celebrate the blood-letting. Then the shadows of anger, rootlessness, confusion, and powerlessness fall again, so the search for the enemies arises again in our quenchless souls. We lack the inner conviction to trust our world, and we invent a god to take care of those we love and to punish those we hate.
We believe that we don’t need to be alert, that we don’t need to see. We can close our minds and leave it all to god. We bury our lives in mindless television, hate and gossip mongering, in the cold, certain comfort of our brittle identities. Thus the desire for a god is wedded in profound unhappiness and a powerless submission to the interactive universe. The need for a god is a reflection of our greater powerlessness. The power we lack is projected onto a faith-based being.
Explore that powerlessness. If you find it in yourself, learn more about it. If we lack power at all, that lack can only be found in the personality we believe ourselves to be. Lack is a belief wedded to a projected persona. It is attached to the person we believe ourselves to be, but what we are not.
When we believe we lack power, we will, by necessity, project that lacked energy onto something external to ourselves. This explains why where lack is most acutely felt, there is the greatest propensity for self-righteous violence, as well as its opposite, the propensity for complete resignation: giving up. Resignation is a sign that we have felt the anguish of close proximity to our Wound and our Fear-Selves have lost confidence in their personas. The collapse of the energetic Fear-Selves results in the creation of an exhausted, defeated Fear-Self. This weakened Fear-Self represents a step in the direction of liberation, but it is only a way-stop, one that can last for generations. The resigned being manifests on both the individual and group levels.
The god belief systems, when they are personal and faith-based, must always result in a continuum of behaviors ranging from the ultra-violent to the pained acquiescence of utter resignation.
The pathway to resolving our struggle with powerlessness is found only in our personal and collective liberation.
How is that done? We take the first step in our liberation through seeing the process play out in our individual and group-affiliated lives. We observe our propensity to close our eyes to the truth that’s right in front of us. We observe how we rely on faith and second-hand knowledge passed down between people and generations without ever being held up to scrutiny. We observe our gullibility in collections of belief that people fear to question because it’s in the bible or other “sacred” texts. We ask ourselves, as often as we can, “Is this really true?”
When we move from faith to alert observation, our hearts and minds open up to our very real lives. We are truly alive. If I am worried for the welfare of my children, then is it the most beneficial choice to place our need for safety and security in a belief that can never be tested or proven, or should we just work with our kids – open our hearts and minds to their concerns, not seek “final” answers, but just to engage in the process of connection? This is how we begin moving from the second-hand beliefs designed to keep us dead and obedient and migrate to living a vibrant, open, and creative life. We evolve from rigidity to flexibility.
Isn’t insecurity something we do very well? Who among is isn’t insecure anytime there is some perceived threat to his sense of self? We can imagine a universe of threats that keep us worried, uptight, and wakeful at night.
But what are we insecure about? What is it that we believe is threatened?
Let’s say I believe in a heaven and a hell. Then I will be insecure that the way I’m living my life might result in an eternity in hell. The same beliefs that created heaven and hell in the first place will tell us how to live a life where we can avoid hell and gain, instead, an eternity in heaven. As a result we become Christians or Muslims. We follow the rules as they were set down centuries ago. We abandon our Authentic Self and become an imitator. Because I really am a sinner and I really crave sex, booze, sloth, and all the rest, I learn to distrust my Authentic Being and become a good little Muslim or Christian.
But we can never be sure we’re good enough. We are haunted by the fear that we’re not getting it exactly right. We know, down deep, that our inner devil just needs to be expressed. Or, maybe we are so secure in being right, that we lord our superiority over all the sinners that fill our world. We become superior beings, smug in our self-righteousness.
But then we risk the sin of pride and we’re back where we started, just another miserable sinner, full with our self-contempt and misery.
If I believe that abortion is wrong, then I am enabled to feel different from those people who support it. I can feel superior or I can feel sorry for those horrible people who believe that women have a right to abortion. But then I hear about someone who gets knocked up by her father and suddenly I don’t know what I believe – but I gotta believe in something!
Actually you don’t.
Let’s go back to our original question. What is it, exactly, that experiences insecurity? Is this “thing” real? Or are we just defending phantoms – fantasies? If we can understand this question, really understand it, then insecurity become a problem that no longer haunts our existence.
But these beliefs, in themselves, are quite harmless. But they are an overlay to a much bigger belief: the belief that this self that I label with the pronoun “me” is real. This me is not a belief. And because we believe it is real, then the beliefs it holds to be true are also real.
We know that the earth revolves around the sun, even though our senses would seem to indicate that it’s really the sun that revolves around the earth. But we know that that isn’t true. It’s an apparition of the senses. And because we know it isn’t true, then the belief no longer has the power to hold us in its trance.
The same applies to the precious self. This self is a belief. But this is something that needs to be seen directly. That is why the question, Who am I?, is so key.
Yes we ARE, but we are not the belief in this body- and mind-based me. This body/mind, this cluster of beliefs with beliefs about its past and beliefs about its future, and its judgments and identities – all of it is just a belief.
The believer of the beliefs keeps the illusion alive.
Our core belief will always relate to the concept and sensation of lack. Lack is inadequacy, so it needs a mass of beliefs to make it real, to give it substance. We lack. We are empty. In our emptiness we are agonizingly vulnerable. So Lack creates a Bible and a Koran – these books are full of rules designed to cover the underlying Lack. These books have just enough connection with authentic being to give them staying power, but they are founded on a fiction and it’s a toxic fiction because it sustains a belief in what isn’t real. It sustains the belief in what keeps us mired in insecurity and misery.
Religious zealots are simply those people so wrapped up in their holy books that they are entirely disembodied phantasms. Their misery is so gut-wrenchingly great that they MUST have these books to keep them safe from the terrifying torment that hides just under the surface.
And because inadequacy feels shitty, we engineer a whole plethora of beliefs that are designed to make us feel superior or just give us some sense of substance. So we spout nonsense about the sacredness of life as a belief without looking further. We are married to a belief rather than to the far more variegated textures happening in this very moment. Because we are identified with lack, we will consistently substitute our unexamined thought (beliefs) for reality.
You are not any belief, but as long as you’re identified with beliefs and need them in order to feel real, you won’t understand that statement.
Waking up means waking up to the only truth in the universe – the only thing that isn’t a belief. Every single thought is a belief. The thought of the sun isn’t the sun. The thought of hunger is not hunger. They are closer to the truth of beingness than more far-fetched beliefs like heaven and hell, but they are still unreal.
So let’s return to our primary theme: insecurity. Everything we are insecure about is an illusion. They are just beliefs about beliefs. And the core belief is the false-self – that enduring cluster of thoughts linked so closely with lack and inadequacy. They are ways of avoiding the misery of lack and identification with inadequacy.
The walls we construct around ourselves, around our group identities, around our perceived gender, around our countries, they are all prisons and we are both the prisoners and their wardens. The higher and stronger our psyche builds these walls the harder it will be to escape our own self-made prison.
Did you know that suffering is a choice? We choose to suffer and then we sustain the suffering by endlessly searching for a way out of suffering, all the while identifying with the very source of suffering: the illusory “me”.
The self we believe ourselves to be is a belief.
So who is the false me – because if we can identify what is false, the true will arise on its own. Our goal is to see the false and not to heal the unreal.
The me that I am not is not something that we are born with – it is, like all beliefs, something we learn. We learn to be this me.
Cancer is a form of war. Healthy cells mutate into cells that wage war against the very cells that gave them birth. Cancer is division, conflict. The unhealthy, vigorous, voracious cells displace the healthy cells.
We too begin in health, but through circumstances entirely out of our control we split into two. The unhealthy self, just like the cancer cells, possesses far more apparent vigor than the quiet, balanced, healthy self. The self out of balance attracts all the light of the authentic self. This compulsive self becomes the being we believe ourselves to be. Thus we come to believe that we are the cancer.
The separation trauma occurs when the child is forcibly separated from the life-giver in the very first days of life. The practice of separation, which is most common in western cultures, is remarkably different from what we can observe in the hunting and gathering world and those of simple agriculture societies where children are, literally, attached to their life-givers for the first 3-4 years of life.
As a result of the separation trauma and being told that we need to improve ourselves, we learn that we must agree with the vital authorities in our life and also reject our “savage” self. We receive the painful lesson that love is not a birthright – rather it is earned, and it is earned through our conforming to the expectations of others, particularly our parents. Even before we can form words, we understand that we are not quite right – there is something wrong with us. This realization becomes our core source of existential pain and suffering. Over time, it becomes the great fear motivator. I call this core belief in our innate inadequacy the Wound.
Through the Wound the unhealthy self is born.
Because the Wound is so painful, we quickly create adaptations to distance ourselves from its effects. We form sub-personas designed to compensate for the terror and self-negation expressed by the Wound. These sub-personas, which I call Fear-Selves, are secondary selves designed to reverse the core self-negating belief expressed by the Wound. Thus we become pleasers – we please our parents (aren’t you a good little girl/boy) and we learn that to get ahead in life we must please those with power over us. When we form false, fear-based personas that seek to earn the approval of important others in our life, it is our false (cancerous) selves that become validated and real.
The root of the human cancer is invalidation that results in the Wound. It causes is the array of Fear-Selves we develop to compensate for the terrifying content of the Wound. Just as the Wound was created through well-intended invalidation by our parents, we sustain the process by agreeing with the invalidation and thus becoming self-invalidators. We maintain the process with our children. Human cancer is passed through the generations. It can be stopped but only through profound, transformative self-understanding. You will never find your Authentic Self until you fall out of your trance-like relationship with your false-selves.
The human cancer is seen by one decisive behavior. It is this: the drive to become someone out of an underlying fear. This is human cancer.
What takes the greatest act of courage and for some of us the great leap of faith is the realization that most of what we believe ourselves to be is the human cancer. The self that needs to be someone is out-of-balance growth that kills what is healthy by replacing the subtle, silent, Authentic Self with the vigorous, aggressive psychology of the Fear-Based self, the self that is birthed by the Wound. Who we believe ourselves to be is who we are not, and who we truly are is invisible to the Fear-Selves.
Welcome to the pathless land that is you. You are your only healer. Healing means a return, a forsaking of all that is false and often that means a falling away from just the clusters of belief that we most cherish about ourselves – after all, authentic healing means severing exactly those beliefs with which we are most attached. That is a truly heroic act of self-realization.
On account of our primal Wound, the very young self begins to development a contextually specific array of Fear-Selves whose purpose it is to insulate the psychological self from the pain and chaos of its underlying Wound. The identification with inadequacy was essential for the development of civilization since it became necessary to convince people of their own innate insufficiency. In this way, socialization organized itself around obedience (self-invalidation) and pleasing important others. Religion, education, and labor became the vital institutions dependent on self-negation through obedience.
One of the reasons so many of us experience dark prolonged periods in our lives is that we are completely unaware of the initial signs that suggest the possible onset of a Fear-Self personality collapse. Such collapses, as awful as they sometimes are, can offer us opportunities for very profound self-realization, and thus to label them as “bad” or as “problems that need to be solved” is really off the mark. That is an error. But like any other serious malady, when they become very intense, they call for medical intervention.
Probe for the most subtle energies that exist beneath the levels of thought and emotional feeling. You should pick up a nearly silent inner static – a very subtle nervous energy.
As you sense this nervous energy that is like a nearly silent static deep within your body, understand that what you’re feeling is the very emanations of your own primal Wound. You are, literally, hearing the origins of your personality as they were forged in your own separation trauma. This is the subtle vibration of the Wound in your immediate life.
Perceive the subtle inner vibration – the living static of the Wound in your immediate experience. Observe how this inner feeling changes when you encounter even very small stressors in your life. Explore the interplay of the Wound and Fear-Selves in your own life.
Stress stimulates this Wound energy. The Fear-Self feels threatened by circumstances that it cannot control. It seeks to deal with this fear with anger and force.
Violence, depression, frustration, and hopelessness are all experiences of a failed Fear-Self and our contraction into the scary world of the Wound. But they are not sound or healing contractions. They are merely convenient operations of a negative Fear-Self struggling with circumstances that he can no longer control and which he fears.
What we have called the Wound is nothing less than the child of the cosmos separated from the ever-nurturing universe. We bring healing to the Wound by first getting a feel for its very existence before it has totally disabled our life, and then channeling love, respect, and honor to it. In this way we reverse the invalidation process, embrace our essential selves, and discover a new fount of energy in our own lives.
Know that habit will try to upset this process. The static energy of the Wound will want to travel paths that it knows well. It will want to foster panic, confusion, anger, and retreat.
Our purpose is never to do away with the Wound. Were we to try that or believe we could do that, we would be doing ourselves the greatest possible harm. If we were to try to kill the Wound, we would be sustaining the process of massive self-negation and invalidation that gave it birth in the first place. We would simply be operating from the position of another Fear-Self struggling to impose control in a psychological world based on separation and belief in the false. Just know that our purpose is to love, respect, and honor … and notice. That is all. Anything more than this results in the birth of a new Fear-Self, often the “Spiritual” Fear-Self.
The Wound is a permanent aspect of our psychological selves. Thus our understanding guides us to love what is common to each of us and to learn the path of authentic compassion with this understanding.
What is this “me” that seems to anchor our experience? Is it not the body with its drives, this conditioned mind with its fears and hopes? Is it not this thoughtfulness that assesses many moments for their value or irrelevance? This me is a compelling zone of energy molded by our physical self and our personal psychology.
This me is, primarily, one of several Fear-Selves, each of which possesses its own cluster of fears and desires. Each is rooted in the underlying stratum of inadequacy and, deeper still, the Wound which gives birth and life to all our Fear-Selves. This rather complex cluster of beliefs, needs, ideas, and all the rest constitutes our personal sense of self. They are just an adaptive construct designed to keep us at a very safe distance from the much more feared darkness of the Wound.
When we feel depressed, trapped, or hopeless, we know that our primary Fear-Selves have been unable to adapt to life as they have in the past. Our life-long commitment to transcendence, to figuring this “thing” out, to just getting over our own bullshit, is now in the very process of collapse. Now the dark essence of the primal Wound enters our immediate consciousness. As our Fear-Selves deteriorate, our positive beliefs about our psychological self morph back into the negative self-images that we birthed by the Wound many, many years ago. We come to believe that we truly are losers, we are unattractive, unworthy of love, stupid, we are insufficient to the demands of our own Fear-Self-based beliefs. This is the crisis we both feared and pained for.
This is a gift. For now, we don’t have to flee to some belief system or to something that has “worked” for us in the past. Instead we can abandon the struggle to escape through thought and face what is truly real – our most compelling internal fear. So we turn around and face the immense goblin that resides in the very center of our sense of self and see what happens next.
Once this personal self is seen as another object, not really much different from any other object, what we have taken as our center point dissolves.
We are that which is aware of the personal self, and everything else for that matter. Awareness differs from attention. Attention is an activity of the mind and often at the service of a Fear-Self. Awareness has absolutely no inherent quality that we can ever objectify. It is utterly serene.
If the child believes that she is unworthy of love, then she will endeavor to please the important people around her. In this way she will get the love she believes that she failed to obtain as the inadequate child. She learns the complex path of manipulating life with the purpose of elevating herself by pleasing important others (and often demeaning unimportant others). Or, if the child believes that he is so worthless that his voice fails to merit attention, he will develop a personality whose voice must be heard to gain him, at the very least, attention, and, hopefully, respect and even love. Liberation calls these Wound responses Fear-Based Selves. In the first case we have the Pleaser and in the second we have the Expert. These compensatory responses to the Wound are who we believe ourselves to be. They are motivated by fear and insecurity. We hope to make our mark on the world with these personalities. When life gets difficult (and it will), when the pleaser powers of the Pleaser fail to please, when the Expert is ignored, the full, dark force of the Wound returns and life becomes agonizing. This is the way the life of fear and insecurity works.
The Wound and the Fear-Selves are all but absent among hunting and gathering people, a type of culture that is all but extinct today. These cultures experienced children as direct creations of God and not as objects that needed to be molded into a projection of the parents through discipline, correction, isolation, or comparison. These children present a very different psychological profile from the children of civilization, particularly of the intensely competitive society of the United States, which is one of the most fear-driven cultures in human history.
The authentic self is who we are prior to our Wounding and the subsequent development of the False-Selves. It is, literally, the light of our lives.
We can’t know who we are until we see or feel our Wound and the Fear-Selves. But before we can do that we need to be very clear about what the Wound is.
Virtually all of us are born perfect. We are a direct reflection of the creative intelligence of the universe, but as very small babies, we are very vulnerable to our external environment. Unless our parents see us as perfect expressions of the creative intelligence of the universe and love us as we are and not as they would prefer us to be, then we will become wounded. We are wounded by being isolated from our life givers, by being frequently corrected, told to keep quiet, separated, having to deal with siblings of similar age, being unjustly disciplined, and being molded by the fears and insecurities of the life givers. This creates the Wound. The Wound is agony for the very young child. The Wound is something that must be overcome and so begins a lifetime of seeking love, security, and balance. Because this seeking is rooted in the Wound and not our authentic being, it is never fully satisfactory or grounded. It is always shaky and fear driven.
The Wound is the collapse of the authentic self into the abyss of the deficient self. The authentic self needs nothing. It is prior to any needing. It cannot be realized until we see our individual and personal Wound.
The young person needs only unconditional love. It needs to be held and touched, for that is how we express love. In most families, conditions are placed on love (conditional love). Few children fully meet these conditions, and so they are made to feel defective, rejected, and not fully deserving of love.
The child is often left alone in the terror and the isolation of its own room – even in its first weeks with its life givers. Thus, at the very start of life the Wound begins. Then when the child gets older, it is often forced to be isolated, corrected, seen as the source of parental conflict. This is, of course, a lie. The child is perfect and requires no discipline regarding its essential self.
The child learns the very harsh lesson that love is earned and that she will fail to earn this love as she is, so she needs to become someone else. Thus begins the life of ceaseless seeking, ceaseless searching for an improved “me”. This becomes a Fear-Self. The Fear-Based self takes many forms, such as the Achiever, the Pleaser, the Seeker, the Terrified One, the Loner, the Expert, and quite a few others. This is the false self within which we become lost and spend a lifetime trying to improve. Until this fear-based self is seen for exactly what it is, we will never find the balance that is the innate nature of the authentic self. It is insecurity in pursuit of security. This is a hopeless and vain endeavor.
The authentic self gets covered over first by the Wound and then by the Fear-Selves. But the authentic self is never lost and, in fact, it is always within us alive and well even amid the life of the Wound and the Fear-Selves; it just becomes a very quiet dimension of our conditioned self.
Nearly every psychological element of our personality is explained by our core invalidation experience. The psychological self is the invalidated self.
All psychological suffering is a consequence of invalidation. The expression of anger, frustration, depression – each is an expression of the invalidated self.
The key question we need to ask ourselves as we explore the effect of invalidation in our lives is, “Who am I without these invalidation behaviors?”