Life has been so interesting of late. I’ve had a multitude of opportunities to look at how I do relationships, chances to think through where I am in life and what is next. In the midst of this process, I had a “moment” – I woke up last Monday with a whole chapter written for one of the books I’m working on.
I liked the chapter so much, I’ve decided to “serialize” it for Into the Centre. (Plus it will whet your appetite for the eventual release of the book!) The topic, “deconstruction” fits with much of what we’ve been exploring here of late.
2011 — I did add it to my book, This Endless Moment
Hope you like it!
I’d like to suggest to you that life is meant to be an ongoing developmental project. This is a concept we accept at work -we “gladly” train and retrain, looking for improvements, efficiencies, other, newer, “better” ways to do things. I suspect we were meant to be on a similar walk in our personal lives, but somehow forgot.
We’ve talked in other issues of Into the Centre about the ego project – the societal, tribal working upon the child – the process of taking the child from an undifferentiated state into development of an ego – an individual, individuated personality. This project involves much repression and suppression of parts of ourselves, as we struggle to learn the rules imposed by family and culture. The ego project, for the vast majority, is complete at around age 16.
At that stage, the person is just that, a person, standing by herself, alone, unsure, aware of being separate, aware of feeling empty, aware that there is “stuff” that was stuffed. She looks around and sees other people in the same boat, and at some level agrees that this is how “adult” life is meant to be. Because she is in discomfort, however, and because she still needs to leave home, the average adolescent begins a period of rebellion. She sees, by her behaviour, that she is fighting against “what has been done to her.”
Now, it should be obvious that teen rebellion is not deconstruction – I’ll get to deconstruction in a moment. Teen rebellion is the opposite of childhood acquiescence – as I child, we may be moved, when dad says, “white,” to agree – “Yes! White!” No reflection, no evaluation. Teen rebellion is: “No! Green!” Again, this is a reaction, not a response. It’s “I’ll show my independence by acting contrary to my upbringing.”
For most, on a spiritual, emotional and relational level, this is where they stick themselves. For the rest of their life, there is an endless round of conforming, bitching, complaining and rebelling. Without ever beginning what I believe to be the next stage in person evolution – deconstruction and reconstruction. Thus, most adults in our culture have a “spiritual or transpersonal” maturity of a 16-year-old.
The Idea of Deconstruction / Reconstruction
Ideally, each child, upon reaching 16 or so, would have a mentor who would guide him through the reconstruction project. That this is not so is painfully obvious. So, let’s look at what that process might look like, in a sort of free form riff on, first, deconstruction.
Having successfully built an ego structure, I am aware of several things. At age 16, I began to have a sense, as a quasi-adult, of the expectations of my tribe and culture (T&C).
Example: If I am male, I am expected, for example, to be a breadwinner, to (likely) earn more than any woman I might relate to, to repress my emotions. If I am a female, I am expected to want both a career and a family, to be able to juggle responsibility without a lot of help from the male in my life, to be nurturing and caring, and to display emotions, but stop if any male in the vicinity becomes uncomfortable. I should never seem aggressive. And on and on.
Now, at my core, I may be entirely different from this stereotype. I may long for a different way of being. But our T&C has done a good job. I have been assured that if I step out of role, I will be banished, possibly killed. If I rock the boat, someone will stop me. I am allowed to be eccentric, whiny, complaining, sensual, odd – but I believe I will be disowned if I walk my own path.
Thus, I notice that I am living behind rigid walls. My body is tense, as we’ve said, above. My mind seems “mushy” around finding another way. My heart is not very alive, and I’m neither open nor vulnerable, to true intimacy, as I might be “seen,” and abandoned. I get really good at playing roles and games from behind a solid wall. My soul is a vacuum, where I always feel alone.
As I look around me, from this place of focused attention, I notice that most people simply settle, grudgingly, for this state, as the fear of change, of the unknown, is so overwhelming. I see that the alternative is to begin to challenge each and every wall we ever built up. In the end, I realize that my goal must be to maintain just enough of the “structure” to be able to function within our society, while at the core of me, I live out a highly expanded version of myself (reconstruction.)
My personal walk through this mine field is illustrative, so let me tell you a couple of stories. I had glimpses of what was going to be required as early as University, where I discovered that I could play the B.A. game by my own rules and still get good grades. In other words, I found, for example, a way to be a radical (late ’60’s style) newspaper columnist who regularly took the administration to task, while at the same time being good friends with the President of the University as well as the Dean of Students. I lived out of my arrogance and need for power, (as opposed to out of self-mastery and strength) in a way that was just slightly “out of the box.”
A second “moment” was during my training to be a therapist. In my first year, my “pissy,” arrogant personality was celebrated by my supervisor, who gleefully used me to criticize the work of the other interns. I loved the adrenaline rush I got from taking someone apart.
In my second year, Gloria Taylor inherited me, and spent a year asking me questions designed to open to me the possibility that I could choose other ways of being. Deconstruction of my belief about how I fit in began with my refusing to play the pissy critic. While I cheerfully admit that stopping myself from going there was one of the most difficult things I ever did ( a three-year project), I discovered that, while changing my essential nature was impossible, choosing how to live, act and be was definitely possible.
The next year, out of fear that I could not support myself only as a therapist, I caved in to the cultural norm, and got a “real” job. I cashed in on my ministry degree and took a church. 1983. My first Waterloo.
I hated almost all of it, except for the preaching and counselling. (Big surprise — Wayne got off on talking . . . ) I lasted until 1987, then quit. Started renovating a hotel, while counselling part time. When the big project seemed to be ending, I panicked and took another church. Waterloo two. In spades.
I stayed until 1996. I had agreed to be there 7 years (thus, 1994), but as that deadline approached, I once again doubted I could make it financially. Never mind that Dar and I have been on track forever. My fear was that “real men get a pay cheque.” And beneath that was the abject terror of stepping outside of the box – being myself. I felt I would die without my walls.
In March of ’96, I had a physical breakdown. I thought I was dying, and indeed I was. I was 45, most of my time was being spent doing what I hated, I was a “typical male” in that I overworked and had little time for myself, and I was decidedly caught in living in the future of “someday all of this will be better.” I raced back to Gloria, and she suggested I go to The Haven for Phase 1.
15 days into the 25-day program, right after Shadow work (deconstruction 101) I saw that my life was a house of cards. While I certainly was more “out there” and less bound by convention than most, I had a deadly fear of taking full responsibility for my life and my choices. On day 15, I damaged both of my knees in one hour. I remember standing stock still after the second knee “went” and thinking 2 things – how do you limp on both legs, and I really haven’t a leg to stand on.
That line was the entry into real deconstruction, with a couple of diversions. In that moment, I realized that I had been living a lie, living a life I had been programmed to live – I had been running on autopilot while at the same time experiencing snatches of what freedom, deep relationship (with Dar and a couple of others) and the risk of free will might lead to. I determined to leave the church, and reformulate my being, tearing down that which did not work, building anew on what did.
By day 25, I was so scared, I decided all I really had was a Day Timer problem. I’d stay in the church 2 more years, save money up, leave later. Always later. I was dead scared of the unknown. And boy, was I critical, when I got back, of all the people around me – whom I judged to be “unenlightened.” My arrogance knew no bounds. (I’m surprised and grateful that Dar stayed with me during the two weeks from hell.)
I wanted to be the poster boy for change, the star Haven student, and wanted this without having to choose to change anything meaningful. God forbid this project requite of me any effort.
So the cosmos, so “god” changed things for me. The son of an elder, whom I stayed with, for a day after Phase ended, upon hearing of my Haven experience, flew to Ontario and announced, breathlessly, that I had joined a cult, and the women, children and small animals were no longer safe around me. And amazingly, the elders bought it, hook line and sinker. Three weeks after Phase 1, I was effectively out of the church, severance package in hand. Deconstruction from on high.
(continued next week!)