The Empress, Conservative Cavemen, and Getting Back to Our Magical Garden

Recovering a sense of physical safety in the world.

I’ve posted in before about the importance of recovering a sense of spiritual safety and of recovering a sense of safety about our own subconscious minds.  Today I’d like to share a little about recovering a sense of physical safety.

What if I were to tell you that 99% of people are perfectly safe 99% of the time?

Does that sound a little weird and uncomfortable to you?  It certainly did to me, when I first stumbled over the idea.  After all, we KNOW that the world is a terribly dangerous place.  Just look at all of the earthquakes and floods and tsunamis and GIGANTIC FUCKING ICEBERGS that are dropping off of the polar caps like fleas!  Not to mention the wars and famine and terrorists and horrible car accidents and planes full of terrorists flying into towers full of innocent people.

Yikes!

In fact, double yikes or even yikes to the fourth power, which is a pretty big YIKES!

But . . . stop and think about it for a few minutes.  How long has it been since you were smack in the middle of a 7.5 earthquake?  Or a massive flood?  Or you got swept away by a tsunami?  Or had an iceberg collide with the ocean liner you were on?

The astounding truth of the matter is that – by far and away – MOST of us get up in the morning, drive to work or take care of our homes, raise our children, plan for our retirements, take vacations, go about our lives and . . . NOTHING BAD HAPPENS.  Nothing.  We’re perfectly safe 99% of the time.

So why do we all have this creepy feeling of impending doom, of something horrible that’s going to happen to us right around the corner?  And why does it matter?

The Empress card in the Tarot shows someone who is absolutely, perfectly at ease in her world.  She reclines gracefully on her beautiful couch, surrounded by natural abundance.  Her head is crowned with stars and she grasps a scepter of power, but holds it very casually.  Her legs are slightly parted, as if she might welcome a little company on her couch, and her face radiates a quiet, peace.  She is the Goddess in Paradise.  

That is EXACTLY the vibration that we should have in our world, here on the beautiful Earth Mother.  We have evolved here over hundreds of thousands of years and this is our home.  In the words of the Desiderata:

“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

We might find a clue as to why so many of us don’t feel safe in our Magical Earth Home hiding in our brain structure.  The limbic system of our brain is set up to trigger massive amounts of stress hormones when our fight or flight reaction is activated.  Nick Ortner,in his book The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living, posits what he calls a, “negative brain bias.”  His thinking is that our ancestors who were the most frightened were also the ones who were most likely to survive.  To use his example, the caveman who thought the rustling in the bushes might be a tiger was more likely to live than the one who assumed it was a harmless squirrel.  And so, the more frightened, constantly freaked-out cavemen and cavewomen would have been the most likely to pass on their genes and – shazam! – we all have, “Holy crap is that a tiger in the bushes?” reactions built into our brains, even if we’re actually surrounded by harmless squirrels.

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Psychological studies suggest that conservatives have a negative brain bias, but liberals do not.  In a nutshell, if you show a bunch of pictures of gardens to both conservatives and liberals, conservatives will pick out the creepy spiders and snakes in the pictures and liberals will pick out the pretty butterflies and flowers.  In other words, conservative cavemen were the ones who heard tigers in the bushes and liberal cavemen were the ones who heard squirrels.

And, if Ortner’s hypothesis were true, all of the liberals should have been eaten by tigers, but there are still a bunch of us around watching the butterflies and smelling the flowers.

Which suggests that a negativity bias really isn’t built into our brains.  It was acquired.  Where did it come from, then?

A lot of it comes from social programming, of course.  It has long been a part of Judeo-Christian philosophy that the Earth was, “given to man,” by God and we’re supposed to control it and everything in it.  We have to, “conquer mother-nature,” in order to survive and build more hamburger stands and condos and parking lots and Walmart Super Stores.  God wants us to.  When you view nature as something to be conquered, then nature – earth itself – becomes an enemy, rather than our Mother and home.

Then there’s politics.  Think of what we’ve been hearing from our politicians for the last four years.  BE AFRAID!  Be very, very, very, very afraid of Mexicans and Knee-Grows, and Arabs and Jews and Chinese and lesbians and socialists and feminists and communists and . . . well . . . pretty much anyone who looks or sounds or thinks differently than we do.  Every single one of them wants to Destroy Our Way of Life, rape our daughter, and steal our dog.

A certain amount of the fear comes from the globalization of information.  We see things on the internet and our televisions that we would have been totally unaware of a short evolutionary time ago.  If there are riots in Portland, train crashes in Pakistan, or bombings in Yemen, we are aware of that now.  It’s all become a part of our daily lives.  The work that’s being done with mirror neurons suggests that human beings are highly empathetic.  If we see other people in pain or distress, we internalize that pain as our own, and we are being exposed to a LOT more people in pain than has ever been normal for the human race.

All of these factors – plus a lot more than could be covered in a blog post – have combined to create a massive illusion, a sort of a group hypnosis, where the world is perceived as a horribly dangerous place that could kill us at any moment.  And, really, it’s not.  

99% of the time, it’s perfectly safe for 99% of us.

Hopefully we can begin to stop the insanity and start EXPANDING that safety and peace to as many other humans as we can.  Stop the wars, feed the hungry, eliminate corruption and greed, declare AS A SPECIES that racism and religious fanaticism will no longer be tolerated.  

But first we need to recover that sense of safety in our own hearts and heads.  We need to return to our home in the magical garden and become The Empress again.

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The Ten of Swords, the Death Card, Child Abuse and Forgiveness

It’s hard to put an exact figure on it because child abuse tends to operate in the darkness, but most statistics indicate that about one in five people were abused as children. That abuse can, of course, be a broad spectrum of behaviors from physical abuse to emotional and social abuse to sexual abuse, or a combination of all of those. And therapists will take different approaches in treating those abuses, depending upon the type and severity.

We can simplify that by just lumping it all under one word: trauma. Victims of child abuse suffered severe trauma at a point in their lives when they were totally ill-equipped to process it intellectually or psychologically. Child abuse is normally committed by those who are closest to us – our parents, siblings, uncles, teachers, priests, pastors – and so it involves a deep betrayal of the most basic sense of trust. It leaves its victims with an enduring, often unconscious, feeling that the world is NOT a safe place and that we can never feel secure or at peace, even in our own homes. To use a current phrase, we suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, just like people who have been in combat for extended periods of time.

Eventually, that lack of trust in life, that basic inability to ever really relax into safety, will cause us to build impenetrable walls that destroy the quality of life. We are so wounded that we just can’t let other people all the way into our lives because they might hurt us, too. Very much like the figure in the Ten of Swords, the battle is over and we lost. And how could we not? We were just children when the battle took place.

We may seek help through therapy or spiritual resources in an attempt to remove the toxins, to tear down the walls of distrust and fear. If we’re blessed with a really good therapist or a wonderful teacher, we may actually make progress with our issues and begin to engage in life in a more open, loving way. We still feel wounded, though, pierced with countless swords of pain when we recall what happened to us as children.

And then an odd thing happens somewhere along the journey: our abusers die. Abusers, like everyone else, are ultimately mortal and they age and die like everyone else.

When that happens it can be a very odd time in our lives. There may initially be a real feeling of catharsis, a sort of a joyful crying out into the world: “I’m still here and you’re not, you son of a bitch.” Or there may be a total numbness and lack of grief. After all, they taught us the value of learning to feel nothing again and again and again while they beat us. Later, if we go into therapy, there may be a deep regret: “Why didn’t I confront him when he was still alive? Why didn’t I ever ask her why she couldn’t love me?”

At the end of the day, though, they’re dead. As the coroner in Wizard of Oz put it, “She isn’t simply merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”

Or is she?

The terrible truth of the matter is that, for most of us, they go on living in our own heads and hearts long, long after they’re physically dead. There are constant inner dialogues with them, sometimes dozens a day, that we carry on as if they were right there in the room with us, instead of lying in a grave. There are the critical, shaming voices that intrude on our every activity.

“That was stupid.”

“Can’t you do anything right?”

“Well, THAT was typical. You screwed up again.”

Many times these inner critics have become so natural to us, so much a part of our existences, that we don’t even realize that they aren’t us. They’re the disembodied voices of our dead abusers.

So how do we ever get rid of them? How do we ever get to a point where we can say, “You know what? You’re dead. Go away now?” The answer for me came in the form of forgiveness, but not forgiveness in the normal sense of the word. At least not the way I’d ever thought about it.

At first, the idea of forgiving your abusers feels grotesque, even outrageous. “Wait a minute . . . I was a little tiny, helpless kid and this person beat me (fucked me, fondled me, burned me, shamed me – fill in the blank with your particular form of abuse.) Why in hell should I forgive them? Just because they’re dead?”

Well, there are two reasons and, oddly, neither one of them has a thing to do with the abuser.

First of all, yes, they’re dead. Yes, in a physical sense, they really ARE most sincerely dead. Whatever they are now, they aren’t any longer the specific person who abused us.

And that means that, as Louise Hay pointed out, all that they are right now is thought constructs in our heads. That’s it: they are literally just our memories now and they have no existence beyond that. When that really hit me, when I finally GOT that, my first thought was, “Wow! I’m CHOOSING to live with my abusers. All they are is my thoughts and I’m in charge of my thoughts. This is a choice to continue the abuse.”

And once I got that, I realized that if I continued to keep those thought patterns alive, it was a CONSCIOUS choice to live with abuse.

That’s where forgiveness comes in. Louise Haye also pointed out that forgiveness is, ultimately, an act that takes place in our own minds. We don’t tend to think of it that way. We tend to think of it as always involving another person and it usually has a lot of drama attached. It goes something like this:

“I forgive you for the fact that – even though I was deeply in love with you, had your three children, and was a good and faithful wife who adored you with all of her heart – you just couldn’t keep your dick in your pants and you screwed my best friend. That slut.”

In other words, we’re SAYING that we’re forgiving the other person, but we’re really not. What we’re really doing is pointing out what a total piece of shit the other person is and saying that we’ll live with that, as long as they feel good and guilty about what they did wrong. It’s a power thing disguised as a kindness thing.

Real forgiveness, though, is truly letting it go, not choosing to live in it, and that’s why it’s so important in healing the wounds of abuse. It means recognizing that we’re keeping the abusers alive in our own minds, acknowledging what they did to us and honoring ourselves as survivors, and then just . . . letting them go . . . for once and for all . . . back into Universe. “If hating you means I’m keeping you alive, then I can let go of that hatred. I forgive you, I bless you, I release you.” And in doing that, we’re really blessing ourselves. We’re really releasing ourselves from the prisons they built in our minds.

You can invent your own rituals for doing that. I like to use Nick Ortner’s Meridian Tapping with three rounds of what they did to me and three rounds of letting them go. You might prefer to build a Day of the Dead Altar with their picture on it. Talk to the picture, tell them what they did and how it felt, and then throw the picture away.

Light a candle, meditate on the abuser and then release him or her as you blow out the flame.

Do a Buddhist Sur Ceremony and release them with love and compassion.

They don’t exist anymore. We’re free.