By Eleanor Cowan
As a 10-year-old kid in a large, rigid Roman Catholic family, I had it all figured out. I knew which way was up. There were no unknowns in my understanding. My future happiness was guaranteed if only I could do as required. Still, my stability teetered back and forth, depending on my ability to conform.
For example, if I obeyed my mother’s first harsh morning shout to wake up and if I promptly completed my cleaning tasks before the oatmeal was ready, then I’d begun my day well. If without telling anyone about it, I quietly sacrificed a slice of toast and jam for the sake of a suffering soul in Purgatory (who gained freedom faster because of my personal sacrifice), then I was indeed measuring up. Finally, if I suppressed my tears when my mother called me a blithering idiot for some real or imagined infraction, then my goodness sailed me ahead even more. My efforts, hugely appreciated by God, rendered me, I believed, worthy of his love. Should I fail even once, however, I’d plummet into my usual sense of inadequacy, which soon necessitated a trip to the confessional to seek pardon. I’d admit each of my venial sins to the priest, who’d wash my soul with the grace he alone dispensed, and I’d be permitted to try all over again.
Oh! I am so grateful for all that I’ve lived, to learn about widening my perspective. I’d like to share some fascinating outlooks that I’ve returned to over and over as the decades fly by.
One treasure issued from a Jungian scholar, Marie-Louise von Franz, (1915-1998) whose book, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, examines the hidden messages in ancient allegory. Von Franz looks at a frequent figure in folklore, the Simpleton – generally named Hans or Ivan, the youngest of three very confident older brothers. Somehow, Ivan consistently has more success than his clever siblings. Why? Because of his uncertainty, Ivan is curious. He welcomes new ideas and therefore has the spontaneity his self-satisfied brothers lack. Ivan is the one who finds the hidden ring or map or concealed captive because of his receptiveness. He’s always the one to save the day because he’s far more open to new perspectives, insights and fresh, modern ideas.
In my recent article, After the sociopath, managing how my brain manages trauma, I shared how relieved I was to learn that my PTSD brain is forever committed to doing its best to protect me from repeated trauma. It does so by flashing distressful images in my mind just as I slip into sleep at night. In this way, awakened and restored to vigilance, I’m less likely to be attacked. But the thing is, I’m safe now. Everything is okay. I don’t need to be guarded in this way. But my brain is not relenting. It continues to defend me even though the war is over. As a result, I can sometimes feel exhausted. The advice I once received — to live richly meaningful day-to-day, has indeed been helpful – but still, my committed brain continues to steer tanks onto the tarmac at night.
Well, last week, Donna Andersen sent along a link to the video exchange between herself and Stacy Vornbrock MS LPC, How to use EFT Tapping to Recover Emotionally from Sociopaths. The title of the webinar, Emotional Freedom Techniques, felt self-empowering, a concept always important to me.
Once again, I thought of Ivan. “Okay,” I thought, “let’s give this a whirl.” I listened to both parts of the video twice, constructed a simple script tailored to myself, printed out a copy of the actual tapping sequence, and began. I sat up tall. I spoke in a confident voice. A little later, I went to bed and fell into an undisturbed sleep! In the morning, I awakened and felt light, rested and eager to begin my new day. Again, the following night, I slept solidly and for six hours straight, a real accomplishment for me. Last night, however, I was just falling asleep when the earth opened to swallow me, armored vehicle and all. I knew just what to do. Without hesitation, I made some camomile tea and began my tapping routine, after which I was able to fall asleep once again, on solid ground (my mattress).
I’m grateful for an added solution to my faithful brain’s stubborn defense of me. I can live a rich, creative day (this week I finally caught on to the steps in my Senior’s Line Dance group) and I’m writing up an alternate script for my new personalized tapping program.
Another perspective comes from an American writer named Pema Chodron, who talks about her notion of living well in uncertainty, without any predictability or guarantee that IF I successfully accomplish, understand, succeed, or am victorious over this or that, then I’ll be happy or free or peaceful. Instead, Chodron shares that, in her opinion, it is a far nobler accomplishment to live well without having all the answers and to do the best we can, with no promise of any guaranteed result or reward.
Like Ivan, I simply agree to listen well, be open to learning new ideas, try new things like EFT Tapping and finally, to toss away any conditional values rooted in fear.
Being as open and caring as we can be today is exactly enough.