Part VIII – Personal mature coping mechanisms

Read Part VII – Interpersonal mature coping mechanisms

These are mature coping mechanisms that do not involve others and that are not transcendental in nature. They are acquired by wise men and women with the sincere desire to live to a higher level outside of any spiritual or religious affiliation. They constitute a higher path to deal with life struggles at a personal level.

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  • Introspection
Introspection

Introspection is the most important quality of someone who is willing to grow as an individual. It allows us to reflect on the challenges of our life while taking responsibility for them. Someone who is introspective takes life as the ultimate teacher. We take refuge in self-reflection when we experience personal hardships as we understand that the outer world reflects the inner world. When attempting to change a situation, we reflect on our internal emotions and thoughts, without forgetting to take practical actions externally as well. Pain reminds us that we have more lessons to learn and we embrace the new struggle without resistance. We develop a new habit of developing self-awareness when life becomes more challenging. This way, we always make a profit no matter what comes our way. When life is good, we are enjoying it with gratitude and when things are tough, we focus on our personal growth. Journaling and meditation are activities that are the most conducive for introspection. Introspection can also be facilitated by a skilled therapist, a sympathetic friend or our life partner. Self-honesty and the willingness to see the truth about ourselves, no matter how painful it may be, is the healthy foundation for introspection. Our higher conscience has the ability to recognize truth from self-delusion. Truth has a very distinctive taste. It may hurt at first but only truth can set us on the path of liberation and healing. Introspection gives us the ability to ask the difficult questions about ourselves. After 15 years spent with a woman who was not introspective, I decided that introspection was the most important quality that I would look in a life partner. I am committed to personal development and my life partner needs to share the same desire. Genuine introspection is the best indicator for someone’s willingness to embrace change.

  • Acceptance
Acceptance

We are often faced with unpleasant situations. I am someone who would first try to alter the uncomfortable condition. However, there are times that no matter what we attempt and despite our best efforts, we keep hitting a wall. At that point, acceptance is the only path to inner peace. This is where experience and knowledge can be so useful as they can tell us what can be changed and what cannot be changed. All of us have a pet peeve with our romantic partner. They may be messy, snoring at night, not putting the lid down when they go to the restrooms, talking too much, being too negative, raising an obnoxious child or an annoying pet, eating differently than we do or dressing too casually for our taste. It is difficult for people to change so it is often best to accept the small flaws in our partner and continue to enjoy all the benefits of the intimate relationship. And this will encourage them to do the same with our own flaws. True love is first about embracing the imperfections of our loved ones, and paradoxically it will encourage them to change as they do not feel judged or pushed away. Accepting them does not mean however enabling our partners’ shadows. This is a delicate balance to achieve. Life is full of ups and down. We may lose a spouse through divorce, a house we love from financial hardships, a business because of a change in the industry or precious belongings from a fire or a burglary. The more energy we put towards the object of our desire, the more difficult it is to let go of it. After we have tried everything to remedy the painful situation, accepting the unpleasant reality is the only way to find peace again. I lost my two children to parental alienation 4 years ago. Five different therapists, three years of court battle, endless messages to my children led nowhere. I am not sure what can be more difficult in this world than losing our children. They are the flesh of our flesh. I studied in-depth the top parental alienation experts, listened to many other alienated parents’ tragic stories, went through many inner journeys to find answers in the personal tragedy I was experiencing. Though it felt incredibly unfair, and so damaging for my children I am unable to protect, there was a point where I had to accept the reality of the situation, and that both the mental health and justice systems are not equipped to deal with parental alienation in our society today. I had to accept that I have to wait for my children to mature, see from themselves the manipulation they were a victim of. I can only continue to work on myself to be ready for the time when we are able to reconnect, if this time ever comes. Resetting expectation is a useful tool to reach acceptance. We may have wanted to become a millionaire when we were younger, but life did not happen as planned. We may reset our expectation that having a happy and healthy family is more important. Or at the very minimum, we can simply be grateful to be alive. Life does not get easier, but gets much more challenging as we age. If we are able to live a long life, we are going to suffer the loss of loved ones, the decline of our health, drastic limitation in the activities we used to enjoy and whatever wealth we accumulated will not follow us into our grave. Acceptance is the antidote to the mental suffering caused by external or internal realities we feel powerless to transform.

  • Letting go
Letting go

Letting go is the process that allows us to reach acceptance. It is a process of elimination of the unnecessary. It is emptying one’s cup so that it may be filled with something new. Letting go is the act of moving from the limited mind controlled by the ego to open to the infinite wisdom of the universe that only our heart may access. Letting go is an essential part of manifestation. After we have expressed the intention of the manifestation of our desire, we need to take steps towards its realization but unless we are able to let go of the outcome, we will not get what we truly want. Our ego is an impostor. It makes us believe that it is who we are. It makes us believe that it is in control of our life and that it is the one that creates everything in our life. By doing so, it gets in the way of the abundance and effortlessness of creation. Letting go is the process of trusting life, understanding that life knows best what is good for us. Letting go is not to be confused with passivity and drifting. Letting go is the act of non-doing that needs to be joined with the doing. It comes with the understanding that we live in a quantic universe where everything is connected. As such, non-doing and letting go bring the necessary outside help so that our heart desires may come to fruition. To free the flow of creation and healing, we need to learn to let go of our ego attachments. First, we need to let go of our attachment to suffering, how we have been wronged and our personal misery. We felt so empty and alone that the identification with grief felt better than facing our inner void. Secondly, we need to let go of the illusion that we are in control. Our ego and personality have to realize their own limitations, and recognize humbly that they were created by a higher conscience. Third, we need to let go of all the lies about ourself and the world, and all the false personas we have created not to see the reality of who we truly are. There is nothing more difficult and terrifying than seeing ourselves without filters but truth shall set us free. Fourth, we need to let go of our need for comfort. It is impossible to growth unless we stretch ourselves to new limits everyday within reason. The ego mind is a powerful tool however it constantly wants to take roles that do not belong to him. It tells the body what to do instead of listening to it. It overwrites the heart desires. Letting go is the process of putting back the ego mind to its place so that we may become a unified body/mind/heart (heart is the path to spirit).

  • Faith or the power of belief
The power of belief. Faith

Faith has a religious connotation however it is simply the power of belief. There are many people with a strong faith in themselves without being spiritual or religious. When we are confronted with difficult situations, our mind often goes to self-doubt or pessimistic scenarios that weaken us. Faith comes from the higher partnership of our mind and heart. Heart brings self-love, self-esteem, higher intuition and the support of the quantic universe for manifestation. Mind brings resolve, consistency and true knowing. This is why we say that faith can move mountains. I used to be a consultant in Silicon Valley. When I told an associate that I wanted to create a successful small company with 30 employees, I was mocked. But I had faith and every day, I worked towards building my company. 7 years later, the company I had started had 95 employees and contractors. I fell in love with a gorgeous woman who was a YouTube star, both an artist and a spiritual teacher. I knew nothing about her apart from her YouTube channel. When I told some of my close friends about my romantic interest, they thought I was dreaming. It was quite a surprise to them when they received several months later a wedding invitation! Faith needs to be anchored with a sincere heart desire and a strong mind but perseverance and patience are ultimately what bring our dreams to reality. When our mind goes astray in face of adversity, it is natural to be assaulted by many negative thoughts. My practice in this situation is not to believe the thoughts, let them pass and remember my resolve. It is at first very difficult but it gets better with practice. The logo of my coaching business says « À cœur Vaillant, rien d’impossible » which means that nothing is impossible with a brave heart. I have faced in my life numerous challenges and I am the living proof that everything can be healed, digested and transformed into something better. It does not take special gifts but the sincere desire to work at it every day.

A coeur vaillant, rien d'impossible
  • Self-responsibility
Self-responsibility. Brian Tracy

After we go through a painful or even a traumatic event, the first sensible step is to validate the hurt inner child. At that stage, it is healthy and very healing to embrace victimhood, powerlessness, anger, fear, shame or any negative emotion we may be experiencing. Once the stuck emotions are released and diffused, the stage of self-responsibity is just as critical. We become introspective and ask why we have attracted or even created this painful situation into our lives? We look for the gift that lies behind the suffering. Self-responsibility makes us rise above victimhood, apathy and powerlessness. At the personality level, some of the situations we encounter are completely unfair and powerless. A child does not chose his parents or the environment he is born into. A child never chooses to be abandoned, beaten or raped. However, as adults, we have the choice to heal and get better instead of repeating the cycle of trauma. We have the choice to re-parent ourselves for everything we did not receive as a child. We may have no control of what is happening to us, however we always have a choice as an adult how we respond to even very powerless situations. Unless we take responsibility for our life and we understand that our external life is a perfect mirror to who we are internally, we cannot even start to make constructive changes in our life. Self-responsibility is what brings us to action and takes us out of powerlessness. Now, at a transcendental level, everything that happens to us, even the most horrific and unjust events, are something we have chosen as a soul. This is something I have experienced personally but unless you have the same realization, do not take my word for it as this belief can damage you if it is used as a form of spiritual bypassing. One of my interpretations of the Ho’oponopono prayer is the plea from the soul to the personality : « I am sorry for the pain you are experiencing. Please forgive me for creating this cruel event meant to lead you towards the path of perfection. Thank you for your courage and not giving up. I love you for everything you are and you do, and I will be always there watching over you ». After we fully realize that we are responsible for everything that happened to us since our birth, the most difficult step is to forgive ourselves.

  • Meaning
Meaning-centered therapy. Logotherapy. Viktor Frankl

It can be argued that life has no meaning or that the meaning of life is simply to be experienced and lived. When faced with the same traumatic event, different people create very different meanings. Some will say that they are damned and life is not worth living. Others will see the world as dangerous and will shut down to others and new experiences. A last category will see the gifts that came from the tragedy and would even say this is the best thing that ever happened to them. Actually, so many cancer survivors are talking this way about their terrible disease. If you Google « cancer is the best thing that happened to me », you will get 1,210,000,000 results! Who is right? Actually, everyone is right as we create our reality according to our beliefs. So why not choose a belief that may best support our happiness? Does it really matter if we are right or not? Isn’t how we feel in our heart more important? Why not become more detached with our judgments, and simply adopt beliefs that may serve us best in our present life. Once these beliefs do not serve anymore, we can let them go and adopt new ones that better serve us. Human beings are creators of meaning and this is one of the most powerful tools against adversity. Viktor Frankl created a new healing modality from this concept called logotherapy. Viktor was a psychotherapist in Austria, and he challenged the nazi regime by refusing the euthanize the mentally ill in the psychiatric hospital he was working at. He was sent to concentration camps with his family in 1942. Viktor, against all odds and while considering himself much weaker physically than many of the other prisoners, managed to survive while almost everyone around him, including his own family succumbed to the horror of the holocaust. He noticed that the ones who survived were often the ones who were able to create meaning from their suffering. Viktor had committed to write about the conditions of the concentration camps so that it may never happen again and this is what kept him alive. He saw meaning as the way towards happiness and self-actualization. Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life-imprisonment in 1964. The living conditions of the in-mates were brutal. They had to be up by 5:30 AM. They had a bucket with cold water for their toilet, and had to break stones until 4 PM. Food and living conditions were horrendous. His son died while he was incarcerated. Despite this, he transformed his prison into a university by educating himself as much as he could during his spare time. He grew his own garden with tomato, lettuce, radish and watermelon. He spent 26 years in prison and was only released when he was 72 to become the political leader that we know. He never lost sight of his mission and the belief he had to transition his country out of apartheid. He created meaning from every hardship he encountered to create an extraordinary life from the most powerless circumstances. We need to remember that we always have a choice. In parental alienation cases, targeted parents face the same powerlessness as the children are brainwashed by the narcissistic parent to be used as weapons of war. In most cases, the mental health and legal systems make things worse instead of protecting children to have both parents in their life. Even in this situation, the targeted parent can decide to grieve and heal to become the best version of themselves during this long period of separation. They can create the meaning that their children will greatly need them when they finally break free from the chains of the alienator. From this new meaning, they are able to transmute their personal tragedy into the most formidable self-actualization.

Part VI: Immature ego-based coping mechanisms

Read Part V – Immature impulsive coping mechanisms

ego melting

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In psychoanalysis, the ego is the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity. It is composed of a group of personalities that projects our identity to the external world. It is located in our head rather than in our heart. It is the concept of who we are. So in this sense, ego is necessary as we interact with this physical reality. Ego is however perceived negatively because most of us do not have a “pure” or conscious ego that can act as a clear channel between the different aspects of our being. So ego becomes this imaginary sense of self that is based on separateness. Ego is a false sense of who we are. It is mostly preoccupied in hiding all the things it is ashamed of about oneself. It spends a huge amount of energy burying into the subconscious a lot of truths that are inacceptable, or bringing to the conscious lies that conform to our false persona. When someone is said to have a big ego, it means that they have an inflated sense of self that is not based on reality. One of the most important aspects of the spiritual path is the courage to see our shadows, and to feel ourselves outside of the filters of our ego. The following coping mechanisms listed below are just attempts for our false ego to hang on to its imaginary sense of self and resist the painful truths about itself.

  • Social comparison
social comparison

People have an innate drive to evaluate themselves, often in comparison to others. This comes from the fact that many of us did not come from a family with unconditional love. As a result, we believe we can only be loved or worthy if we are better than others. Because we do not experience true self-love, we see love as a scarce resource therefore we need to compete with others to get it. Many of us were raised in a conditional way and this reinforced that belief. When we did what our parents wanted, we were good (meaning lovable) otherwise we were bad or unlovable. There are two main forms of social comparison. With downward social comparison, we compare ourselves to others who are worse off than ourselves. Such downward comparisons are often centered on making ourselves feel better about our abilities. We might not be great at something, but at least we are better off than someone else. I was severely depressed as a kid, always feeling something was missing. In particular, my puberty started very late so I felt very ashamed about my small size. As a result, I had the obsession to always compare myself to others thinking this one was dumber than me or uglier than me. This was a hellish state. My habit of always comparing myself to others was simply a defense mechanism so as not to feel how unlovable I felt. With upward social comparison, we compare ourselves with those who we believe are better than us. This type of comparison may be inspiring to improve our performance, and work harder to achieve our goals. Unfortunately, most of us have too low of a self-esteem to handle upward comparison so we would typically put these people down because of envy. We would say of a rich person that he cheated to make his money, or that they are actually very unhappy people. Or we pick on the famous by going over everything that is wrong with their lives. This is why there are so many tabloid magazines and this is a multi-billion dollar business. Our ego is obsessed about being better, because it believes this is the only way to be loved. The ego is our false identify that believes we are separate from everything else. It feeds on the illusion of separateness. In truth, there will always be someone better and worse than we are. A healthy goal should be to be better than who we were yesterday, and to become more and more our authentic self every day. When we catch ourselves comparing to others, it is an indicator we need to work more on self-acceptance and self-love. This defense mechanism is similar to the cognitive distortion called personalization. Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to them. A person who experiences this kind of thinking will also compare themselves to others, trying to determine who is smarter, or better looking. It is just another symptom of low self-esteem.

  • Introjection

Introjection occurs when a person internalizes the ideas or voices of other people-often external authorities. An example of introjection might be a dad telling his son “boys don’t cry”. This is an idea that a person might take in from their environment and internalize into their way of thinking. As a result, they will repress their sadness to match that belief and we know how dangerous it is to repress negative emotions. It is also very common for children to have the same political views as their parents (if they have a close relationship) for the same reasons. Some mental health professionals believe that introjection is a protective strategy that children employ in order to cope with unavailable parents or guardians. By unconsciously absorbing the characteristics of parents, children reassure themselves that some aspect of the parent is present even if the parent is physically or emotionally absent. Adopting the same beliefs as our primary caregivers is very reassuring for this reason. It gives us a sense of belonging even when they are not there. Cults and religious organizations are attractive to people because it gives them belonging and safety by sharing the same beliefs with other people. Many people would rather feel controlled and exploited rather than alone and unsafe. Negative introjection can also be part of a cycle of abuse. A person in an abusive relationship, for example, might begin to believe the claims of a partner who is abusive and internalize feelings of worthlessness or failure. In some cases, the victim might introject the abuser’s personality so strongly that the victim then becomes an abuser. I have covered how this works in depth in my blog about transgenerational traumas. Introjection is a defense mechanism to protect the imaginary picture we have of the authority figures in our life so as to feel safer. In order to transcend introjection, we need to have the courage to see the objective truth about the people we have modeled after.

  • Cognitive dissonance
Donald Trump cognitive dissonance about global warming

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result when your beliefs run counter to your behaviors. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so when what you hold true is challenged or what you do doesn’t match with what you think, a new belief must be formed to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. A classic example of this is “explaining something away”. A smoker may be told that smoking is bad for their health. They would respond that Jeanne Calment the oldest woman who ever lived whose age was well documented (dying at 122) smoked for over 100 years ! Donald Trump is heavily favoring US energy companies that are liable to pollute the environment and accelerate global warming. He used an unusually cold winter in the US and Canada to dismiss global warming as showed in the tweet above. Or if you tell a meat eater that s/he contributing to animal cruelty, the typical erroneous responses would be that the animal is already dead anyway or that we need animal proteins to live (which is untrue). Explaining things away is nothing else than a lack of personal integrity. Cognitive dissonance is a coping mechanism not to experience the discomfort of the conflicting emotions due to the lack of congruence between our personal values and our actions. If we have the courage to sit with the discomfort of the lack of congruence between our values and actions, then we may be able to make much better decisions for ourselves, people around us and our planet. Let’s imagine that you value looking good and slim, but you find yourself fat and out-of-the-shape. Sitting with that discomfort will actually get you to start going to the gym. When we let go of the coping mechanism, and we have the courage to face the difficult emotions then we can change our life for the better.

  • Self-serving bias
Self-serving bias

A self-serving bias is any cognitive or perceptual process that is distorted by the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem, or the tendency to perceive oneself in an overly favorable manner. I had an acquaintance who was recently fired as an electrician. Instead of accepting that his qualifications and work ethics did not meet the expectations of his employer, he rewrote the story that he was unfairly targeted by people who were jealous of him.  We are all using this coping mechanism in small and bigger ways. It stems from a lack of self-love. We want to look good to others so that they may love us so we project a false persona. Every time something rather unfortunate happens to us, we are trying to rewrite the story to look better in it. Ask a divorced husband and wife separately why they split and you will get two very different stories where each one rewrites the story to look like the victim or give themselves the good role. Authenticity is about resisting this temptation and giving the most accurate description of the situation as if we were not involved personally. Unless we are willing to commit to the truth, we cannot learn from our mistakes and take responsibility for our life. Our addiction to this coping mechanism comes a lot from our education. As a child, if we behaved in a way that displeased our caretaker, s/he would likely say that we are bad therefore unlovable. Therefore, we feel we cannot afford to fail in our performance so we make up excuses. Our self-love needs to be independent of our external successes for this reason. Here is a good exercise to work on our self-serving biases. Let’s take the perceived failures of our life (i.e. divorce, lay-off, failed business, challenging relationships, poor health) and describe them from an objective perspective as if we were writing about someone for whom we had no emotional attachment.

  • Blind following of any person or human organization
Russian Jesus blessing his followers

I covered this topic in detail previously with religious cults. Following blindly any person or human organization is a way to avoid facing painful feelings whether it is confusion, loneliness, responsibility or powerlessness. On the positive side, religions have been important for men in their process of socialization. They are a vibrational improvement over human lives that are solely driven by impulses, instinct and selfish motives. They bring structure, meaning, community, an opportunity to open spiritually and to help others. However, they can also be a source of disempowerment and a coping mechanism. Religious cults know that the best time they may be able to recruit a new member is after a personal tragedy that makes them vulnerable. Faced with the inexplicable death of a loved one, profound loneliness, a debilitating disease or mental condition, we are in search for new meaning and the cult/religion has all the answers ready for us. So the cult can be used as a coping mechanism to avoid difficult feelings of confusion, uncertainty, loneliness (by getting new conditional friends), or responsibility (no need to figure things on your own anymore as you can just follow the cult dogmas to find salvation). Developing our own connection to spiritual dimensions without intermediary is the next step of maturity. We may then connect with and contribute to organizations dedicated to positive change with full autonomy and freedom. The most common place for this coping mechanism is however in families that are led by an individual with narcissistic traits. We previously explained why children need to make their parents right in order to feel safe. When this tendency is extended into adulthood, it becomes a coping mechanism not to experience unpleasant emotions such as loneliness, confusion or responsibility. Another common place for this coping mechanism is corporations. Are we aligning our personal abilities, and personal values with a business corporation in a symbiotic way or are we losing our own identity in the company mission not to face some uncomfortable aspects of ourselves? Unfortunately, we are largely programmed to believe that we need to let go of our opinions and free will when we receive money from an employer. The best employees are often those who can identify with the overall company mission and this means they will not be afraid of conflict with their supervisors for the benefit of the organization. This is unfortunately not always tolerated.

  • Spiritual bypassing
Spiritual bypassing

Spiritual bypassing is a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks. The term was introduced in the early 1980s by John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist. This is basically how it works. We become spiritual because we had a difficult childhood that made us hate ourselves, develop a poor self-image and develop addictions. We become interested in self-help & spirituality, and we start developing better habits, more positive thoughts and a better outlook on life. We start feeling better as a result so this encourages us to develop a separate spiritual personality. However, our ego that is so incredibly smart then starts manipulating this new spiritual personality to judge other people, deflect shame on others, avoid uncomfortable shadow work or become complacent. Here are some of the most common forms of spiritual bypassing. We would label someone as non-spiritual if they are to experience any form of negative emotions such as anger, frustration or despair, expecting people to deny their own human condition. Some use spirituality to put themselves above others while other aspects of their life are in complete disarray. This is very common for self-proclaimed « awakened beings ». And if they do not have the self-confidence to make themselves a guru, they would use their own weakness to place themselves above others. « I am too empathic, and receive too much information that I am unable to filter ». «  I am ultra-sensitive and unless people around me can create a sanctuary for me, I will be unable to fulfill my mission on this planet ». Others would abuse shamanic drugs as an escape instead of a powerful healing and self-awareness tool. Others become too dependent on external divination tools such as astrology, tarot, numerology or palmistry rather than trusting their own intuition. I have a friend who only dates partners from three specific astrological signs and simply refuses the idea to entertain a romantic relationship outside of that. Some delegate all their decisions to a spiritual guide that live in their head. Once I went to a Buddhist retreat with a friend and we got lost in the forest. She started invoking immediately Sathya Sai Baba for protection to help us find our way home. She did not like when I responded to her that Sathya Sai Baba’s pedophile tendencies were well known. It is similar to people going back to prayer every time something does not go their way. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, especially when it originates from a pure heart. However I am rather doubtful with the type of prayers that makes God into mummy or daddy ready to give us some special treats.

  • Triangulation
triangulation
caring mother reconciling fighting couple

Triangulation is a manipulation tactic where one person will have a separate and often opposite discourse with two different persons, antagonizing them against each other for their own benefit often by exploiting each person’s vulnerability. It is a strategy frequently used by narcissists but also by codependents. Triangulation is used widely because it is extremely effective to influence people for our selfish needs. If someone does something to upset us, we are likely to speak badly about them to others, amplifying facts or even making plain lies to turn people against them so as to get revenge on them. In case of parental alienation, the alienating parent triangulates their own children against the other parent. It is a form of parenticide that is criminal and causes severe psychological damage to the children. As a coach, I am often put in a position with risk of triangulation while helping a couple for instance. It is my responsibility to be equally supportive and tough on each person and not take sides. As long as they are in a committed relationship, my responsibility resides primarily in helping them both to heal their partnership so that they may get closer. If we are not triangulating then we should feel comfortable telling someone face-to-face what we are saying about them to an acquaintance behind their back. If we do not pass this test, it means we are manipulating. Playing politics is based on triangulation and is a cancer to any organization. I used to have a borderline girlfriend with the habit of demonizing her past partners. She told me some very alarming things about her ex, and I immediately came to her rescue as I did not question what she was telling me about him. A couple of years later, after we separated, she used her new husband against me in the exact same fashion. I realized I had been fooled and used as a weapon of war. Every single boyfriend/husband of hers has followed the same pattern.

  • Self-deprecation, magnification and minimization
self-deprecation

There is a category of people who blame themselves systematically always focusing on the things in their life that are not quite right. They would say « I am so stupid/dumb », « I always mess up », « I am a big zero », « I am a jerk ». They were probably raised by people who would devalue them when they were younger. Boastfulness was probably unacceptable in their family home, only humility was. The habit may be so ingrained that they keep belittling themselves even when they live their adult life away from their parents. Self-deprecation is a form of defense mechanism in the sense that people are less likely to say something mean about you if you say it first. Most people would actually try to cheer you up instead which feels good. It is also a way for people to reduce their stress level by lowering expectations about themselves. For this reason, many students would say before an exam that they are going to fail or how badly they performed before receiving their grades. While at the end, they are typically getting good grades. They believe their worth as a person is determined by their grades so they cannot afford to disappoint their peers or parents with poor school performance. This behavior stems from low self-esteem too. I play competitive tennis regularly. Sometimes, I play against opponents who insult themselves every time they miss an easy shot. Competition to them feels like a self-flagellation exercise. Similarly, with magnification and minimization, one of two things happens: the importance of insignificant events—like a mistake—is exaggerated or the importance of something significant, such as a personal achievement, is lessened. In other words, a person’s problems are blown out proportion, while the positive aspects of their life are ignored. I had a romantic partner who was a performer. She knew her craft well and people really enjoyed attending her events. At the end of each performance, she would however always focus on her perceived mistakes and would get very anxious about them. While it is healthy to ponder on what could be improved, this can be done without losing sight of all the positives. She was raised in an environment where mistakes were considered completely unacceptable, and this contributed largely to her high anxiety. Mistakes are however simply part of the process of learning.

Read Part VII – Mature interpersonal coping mechanisms

Part IV: Immature fear-based coping mechanisms

Read Part III – Immature projection-based coping mechanisms

alligator attacking man

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Fear is an automated response to signal us a danger or a threat. It releases chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing and energized muscles, among other things, also known as the fight-or-flight response. It provokes huge energy expenditure to increase our chance for survival. This is an appropriate response when we are running away from a predator but it is unadapted to the perceived threats of our modern life that typically requires clear thinking and awareness. We become consumed with stress when fear takes unnecessary control of our life. Fear is the most primitive defense mechanism and originates in our reptilian brain which allowed our race to survive for millions of years. Fear of heights, snakes or spiders was programmed into our genetics because these situations represented a potential danger. Becoming conscious means trying to understand what lies behind each fear.

  • Me first
black Friday

This is a very common coping mechanism for most of us. When we are under pressure, we become more selfish and focus on our own needs to the detriment of other people’s needs. This is driven by the fear of lack and the illusion of separateness. You will see most children acting this way. In a large family, if someone brings some chocolate or candies, there will be always some children taking more than others and some of them will inevitably cry, complaining that they did not get their share. While this behavior is understandable with children, it is unfortunately well too common with adults. In the USA, on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, people could push each other to get the best sale items. In survival situations, this behavior is amplified. For example, a kapo or prisoner functionary was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp who was assigned by the SS guards to supervise forced labor. The kapo would often be even more brutal than their SS supervisors towards other prisoners in exchange of better food, better clothing, absence of physical abuse or a private room. This was the way for the Nazis to turn victims against victims, and it was sadly effective. This is also the reason why people lose their mind when money is involved. Salespeople fight over good territories. Business partners embezzle money and end up sinking their own business. Money feels to them a scarce resource and they act unethically to get more of it. At a higher level of consciousness, we are one, so taking from someone is like taking from oneself. A more mature behavior is to allow the most vulnerable population to have priority access. We can witness this behavior when someone gives his seat to the elderly in a bus, with handicap parking spaces, or giving priority to children and women in rescue situation. Intimate relationships that are based on consumerism, basically focused on what we can get instead of what we can give never work. This is why it is so important to only get involved with a partner we truly love where both will be focused on each other’s happiness.

  • Leaving first out of abandonment fear
woman dumping man

Many of us carry abandonment traumas from childhood. It seems counterintuitive that people who are so afraid of loneliness would leave the relationship first. However, someone with an extreme fear of abandonment knows that they will not be able to survive being dumped so they will take the first step as soon as the relationship feels shaky. They will start demonizing their partner so as to detach emotionally, and then leave first. While this course of action still feels very difficult, the person leaving knows that they can survive it because they have done it before. However being discarded feels worse than death to them. This is why the borderline is well known to oscillate between « I hate you » and « don’t leave me ». Their whole mindset is driven by the fear of abandonment. For years, I had a wife who threatened me for divorce. One day, I agreed with her and we separated. Then, she turned it against me that I had abandoned the family and she punished me by using our own children as weapons of war against me. A mature person is able to share authentically his/her relationship concerns and work on it consciously with the other partner. If they cannot come to a meeting of minds, they find a way to split with decency. Along the same lines, a person may feel not good enough for their intimate partner. We have an ego defense mechanism that prevents us from confronting our insecurities as we see ourselves as “less than” our partner. This may mean that our partner is likely to leave us because we are not good enough so we will start criticizing them and bringing them down to a level that we perceive as ours. This quickly feels like an abusive relationship as we want our partner to make us feel better and not worse. For this reason, it is important for intimate partners to have a similar self-esteem.

  • Fantasy, magical and wishful thinking
magical thinking humor

Magical thinking is the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, actions, words, or use of symbols can influence the course of events in the material world. Magical thinking presumes a causal link between one’s inner, personal experience and the external physical world. While our thoughts do impact our reality, the New Age community is taking it to an extreme and holds the naive belief that thoughts are enough in themselves for physical manifestation while forgetting that congruent actions, persistance, willpower, discipline and a conducive environment are even more important. It is another form of denial that originates in the fear of taking action, the fear of taking responsibility and our resistance of getting uncomfortable. A friend of mine has 15 children and needed some financial help to secure accommodation for her family. While some of her siblings have a very successful business and could have easily helped, they responded instead that they would pray for her and her children! I have another friend who is new to spirituality but heard from his New Age mentor that he needed to get uncomfortable to become successful and ensure that he has no backup plan. He quit his job, started going to trips and enjoying many wonderful adventures. He maxed out his credit cards and overdrew his bank account. He then thought to himself that his financial struggle came to him because he was not open to receiving so he started a GoFundme campaign asking for people to take care of his debts. It made a lot of his facebook friends angry, in particular the single mums who have to count every penny to ensure a roof over their head and food for their family.

  • The Rose-colored glasses syndrome
rose-colored glasses syndrome

Optimism and self-confidence are great assets but too much of it can lead us to making fatal mistakes, ignoring or minimizing important obstacles standing on our way. While positive thinking and focusing on the good aspects of people have many benefits, it can become another form of denial when pushed to the extreme. My ex-partner who has a controversial successful career has been working with an associate with this syndrome. He would often communicate with her worst detractors with the naive hope that he could convert them to like her, giving out inadvertently compromising information that may put her in danger. People with this syndrome are trying to avoid uncomfortable feelings of insecurity by turning potentially dangerous situations into a safe fantasy. The paradox is that they are making people around them far more unsafe as a result. They only focus on the best outcome and refuse to consider the worst case situation. They can only see the light but refuse to see the shadow in themselves and others. They failed to understand that all of us are light and shadow, and that shadow with awareness is relatively safe. It is when there is no consciousness of the shadow that it becomes problematic. A person who is unaware of their shadow is unsafe. It takes courage to see reality for what it is, and even more to attempt changing what we were afraid to see.

  • Panic attack
panic attack

A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes some of the following symptoms: pounding heart, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, confusion, fear of death, powerlessness, and obstruction of rational thinking. A panic attack is an uncontrolled fear that we feel incapable of regulating. Phobia often includes a panic attack. In order to combat a panic attack, we first need to acknowledge the fear and validate it. When I was a teenager, I would get panic attacks before math exams because I associated not having the perfect grade with being unlovable. More recently, I had a panic attack climbing the top peak of Europe as I felt sick and incapable of going down on a very technical path. I was afraid of dying. We have defense mechanisms for a reason. The key is to make them conscious. Here is my personal technique to handle panic attacks:

  1. Recognizing we have a panic attack and accept the body’s reaction to it so that it does not trigger more fears (ex. fear that our heart will stop because it is racing too fast)
  2. Acknowledging the underlying fear (what am I really afraid of?)
  3. Seeing the part of us that is having the panic attack (ex. hurt child in us)
  4. Become conscious and slow down the breath. Connect to a higher aspect of the self
  5. Bringing unconditional love & presence to this traumatized part of ourselves from that higher perspective
  6. Self-talk of reassurance and helpful thoughts until we go back to a normal state
  • Procrastination
levels of procrastination

People who procrastinate are using avoidance to cope with emotions, and many of them are non-conscious emotions. We all have a six-year-old running the ship. And the six-year-old is saying, ‘I don’t want to! I don’t feel like it!’ When we resist an action, we need to ask the question what we are really afraid of. The most common resistance is our dislike of discomfort. This is easy to see with any physical exercise routine. With repetition, we can rewire our brain towards the benefits of performing the action instead of the discomfort while we perform the action. This is one of the great benefits of the Wim Hof method. It rewires the brain to associate discomfort with the elevated sense of feeling alive. Self-discipline is a very important part of personal development. Procrastination may come from the fear to fail but that will surely make us fail! It may come from our resistance to authority which is common if we have enmeshment traumas. When we procrastinate, we need to become conscious of the emotions we are trying to avoid and start an internal dialog with them. I like to make deals within my internal parts. Let’s say I want to finish a project but some aspects of me are resisting some of the efforts. I will tell them that once I complete the activity, I will let them have a reward such as watching a movie. As we learned at school, putting work first, and pleasure next is a good life habit. Another covert form of procrastination is to be become very busy doing things we do not need to do in order to avoid anything we are actually supposed to do! Not all procrastination is bad as it may be an indicator that you are resisting an action that you have some very good reasons to perform! You may have a toxic job and it may be time to change it. You may procrastinate seeing someone because this person is abusive to you.

  • Looking for a savior
Jesus saving superman

This coping mechanism is deeply ingrained since childhood. As we enter this world completely powerless, we need to rely on our primary caregivers to take care of us. This creates the belief that there is someone all powerful out there to ensure our survival. It is terrifying to take responsibility for our life so we always need to idealize an external person or spirit to feel safer. The passage to adulthood requires cutting the umbilical cord with our parents but many people are unable to do it. And when we do, after realizing the limitations of our parents, we often substitute them for another savior. We can discover who we have projected as our savior by asking ourselves who we are reaching out first when we feel desperate and in the midst of fear. It can be a parent, a spouse, a family member, a friend, a doctor, or a therapist. If we have been disappointed with people, we often turn to a spiritual teacher (alive or dead), a deity or our idea of God. While this is healthy to reach out for help in difficult situations, we can observe our own powerlessness in our desperate need for a savior. The truth is that our life is the perfect reflection of who we are, in positive and negative. This is what is so difficult for us to accept, especially if we started out from a difficult family environment. I believe in people’s ability to tap into their own resources and other people’s resources to improve their lives. This is why I am a coach and not a spiritual teacher. I do not want people to idealize me and disempower themselves in the process. I want them to feel that they can overcome obstacles just like I did because I am just like them. I can learn from them just like they can learn from me. Nonhierarchical relationships have so much more potential for growth. My goal as a coach is to make myself eventually unnecessary and ensure that my client has all the tools to heal and create a life that feels good on their own. When I climbed Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, I got very sick close to the summit. I experienced a panic attack as I felt incapable of going back down through the same technical path I had been through. I was able to observe the little boy in me who wanted to be rescued by a helicopter. However, they only send helicopters in France if you have a broken bone and are unable to walk, not in case of sickness. At the end, I had to accept that no one was going to save me. I had to use the strength I had left and the diligent support of my guide to get back down. The walk down the mountain with a 104 degree fever was excruciating but I finally made it, and it reinforced the belief in myself. This is hard to accept but no one is obligated to give us support even when we desperately need it. When we look for help, we need to learn to ask for it without entitlement so that people would like to do something for us from their good heart instead of guilt. This way, it feels good on both ends.

  •  Intellectualization and rationalization
intellectualization

Intellectualization is a defense mechanism by which reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress – where thinking is used to avoid feeling. It involves removing one’s self, emotionally, from a stressful event. Intellectualization may accompany, but is different from, rationalization, the pseudo-rational justification of irrational acts. The person avoids uncomfortable emotions by focusing on facts and logic. The situation is treated as an interesting problem that engages the person on a rational basis, whilst the emotional aspects are completely ignored as being irrelevant. I got involved in a bad car accident during the summer 2015. When I was making a left turn on highway 50 in Lake Tahoe, a drunken driver going 80 mph on a 35 mph zone with no visibility hit us on the side. My daughter fainted during the impact and I had the fear of my life when I saw her unconscious body in the back of the minivan. At the end, we all had some bruises, some PTSD for my daughter but no serious injury. I completely shut off my emotions at this point. I just went to get a car rental, drove my friends back to the AirBnB, drove to the Reno hospital where my daughter had been sent by helicopter, and then picked up my ex-wife at the Reno airport. When I called my girlfriend that same evening to let her know what happened, I appeared to her as a sociopath as there was no emotion when I was relating the accident. She got scared of me but I was incapable to show any emotions at that time. It was only the following day when I called the insurance company, and started describing the accident that I crashed on the phone with tears in my eyes. Many people in cults use intellectualization and rationalization to explain and justify abuse from the leadership with absolutely no emotions. Intellectualization and rationalization are more common in men than women because men are more head-centered and women more heart-centered in general. During the group healing workshops that I facilitate, I would have workshop attendees sometimes describe the most horrific abuse (i.e. rape or beating) with no emotion and even sometimes giggling! One woman who was victim of incest even said that no one has ever loved her as much as her dad did. In this case, I put them through a process to reconnect consciously with the raw negative emotions that they have buried to avoid the pain. In this case, negative emotions are our friends as they are the bridge that calls the body to start the process of healing the traumatic experience. People not experiencing them feel scary to us as they seem they lost their humanity.

Read part V – Immature impulsive coping mechanisms

Part III: Immature projection-based coping mechanisms

Read Part II – Neurotic defense mechanisms

projection

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While pathological and neurotic defense mechanisms are in the realm of mental illness, immature defense and coping mechanisms are considered “normal” while not optimal. The fact is that 98% of us still have a hurt inner child that is still running the show. We call these coping mechanisms immature because we expect children to display these behaviors. When they are observed in grown-up adults, we may raise our eyebrows and recognize them as a weakness or an eccentricity. We would however never put them in the category of mental illness, or requiring therapeutic intervention as they are so common in every day life. When I meditated on that topic, I found 23 of them so I split them in 4 separate categories to make this blog series more digestible:

  1. Projection-based
  2. Fear-based
  3. Impulsion-based
  4. Ego-based

Projection-based immature coping mechanisms

Projection is a defense mechanism where a person projects his/her impulses, feelings, habits, and/or traits onto someone else and begins to identify his own traits in that ‘someone else’. Projection is so common that it is everywhere. We see in others what we resist to see in ourselves. Most judgments have some level of projection. The closer the relationship, the more likely the projection is, and this is why there are so many projections in intimate relationships. When we receive constructive feedback, it is healthy to see to what extent the person is right about their observation so that we may learn and grow from it. If we do not understand their critique then we can ask questions until we are able to see what they saw in us. This is why brutal personal honesty is so important in this work. However, it is important to see what projection may be in their feedback too. There is no need to share back what we observed unless we feel the person will be able to receive it and learn from it. I talked sbout the philosophical aspect of projection in a previous article.

  • Projective identification
projective identification

Projective identification is a type of projection that involves both people. The one person does not use the other merely as a hook to hang projections on. He/she strives to find in the other, or to induce the other to become willingly, the very embodiment of projection. Throughout our relationship, I had a partner who kept repeating a number of complaints she had against me. First, she said that I had duped her into the relationship, promising her a dream that never came to fruition. I accepted this feedback because I was so much in love with her that I displayed unconsciously (and in a codependent way) what she wanted to see to win her over. Also, there were a number of unfortunate hardships that came our way. However, I got to realize that her insistence on being “duped” was projective identification. She suffered from severe separation anxiety and needed her partner to be with her all the time, always focusing on her, basically becoming an object in her reality. She did not know how to function otherwise but carried deep shame about this aspect of herself so felt that she had no other way than “duping” her partners to become her crutch. Additionally, she kept accusing me of putting my needs over hers. I am clear now that it was projective identification. As a recovering codependent, I was learning about my authentic needs and I was starting to set healthy boundaries. In her perspective, her needs were most important than mine so they had to come first. I was not allowed to have needs that would conflict with hers. She was not interested in an equal partnership and she carried some shame about it so projected it on me. She also complained that I had not put any energy into being a stepparent. While I made some efforts and committed to spend one day a week with him, my relationship with her son was not ideal because he felt her mum preferred to spend time with me rather than him (while this came from her separation anxiety) so he saw me as a rival. Also my own trauma in missing my own children lost through parental alienation created a difficult emotional dynamic to attach to my partner’s son. There was also a level of projective identification because she perceived my children as the biggest threat to our relationship so she felt a lot of guilt for not being able to support me through this ordeal. Generally speaking, narcissists will have a lot of projective identifications on codependents who gladly accept all the faults because of their low esteem. Narcissists carry too much shame to see these flaws within themselves so need to project them externally.

  • Tanking
tanking

The concept of emotional tanking may be a bit complex to understand at first. When two people are in an intimate relationship, they are closely connected emotionally. We can visualize that each one of them is represented by a tank with emotions inside connected together by a pipe. So if one of them is repressing emotions, the pressure will be pushed back to the partner who is more emotional, empathic and less repressed. This pattern is typical with repressed brain-centered men married with an emotional woman. Let’s imagine the man is having difficulty with his supervisor and is afraid to lose his job. He does not want his wife to worry so says nothing. She notices something is not quite right so she asks him if everything is all right. He responds he is fine and starts watching TV. All his repressed anxiety « tanks » his empathic wife who suddenly feels very anxious without understanding why. She starts crying feeling sorry for herself. The man gets frustrated thinking « I have enough problems at work and now my wife is acting neurotic for no reason ! ». He asks her with an irritated voice « what’s wrong now ? » which does not help his wife’s state. He is not realizing that his wife is perfectly mirroring his repressed emotions, but because he is unwilling to see this aspect of himself, he is scolding his wife for something he created in the first place. Anyone married to an empath needs to be aware of the concept of tanking. When I was married to Teal, I made that mistake many times. I was trying to protect her from my children custody court case because this was making her very anxious but I repressed my own nervousness in the process which would erupt in her unexpectedly. This is another (selfish) reason why it is so important that we care for our loved ones’ state whether it is our spouse or children. If they are not doing well, they will tank us, especially if we are empathic.

  • Deflection
deflection

In general, deflection means that we are passing something over to someone else in an attempt to draw the attention away from ourselves. I have written about my unfortunate bad habit of deflecting in a previous article. We deflect when we feel ashamed so our ego will deflect the shame back typically to the person who made us uncomfortable in the first place. Because we understand well the insecurities of our partner, it is easy for us to trigger their shame, and get them on the defensive so that we stop being in the spotlight. Our biggest ego fear resides in seeing our own shadows. In order to resist deflection, we need to remember that when our shame is triggered, we have an opportunity for personal growth so we are actually winning. We learn to sit with our emotion, and we take advantage of the trigger to start the process of healing. If our partner is supportive, we do it with them otherwise we isolate to take care of it on our own. If we feel there was an element of projection in our partner that triggered our shame, we let 24 hours pass and find a suitable moment to share our observation consciously with them in a way that does not trigger their shame and benefit their own inner growth. Deflection is often responsible for the quick escalation of argument between people. Taking time for self-reflection will neutralize this unhealthy habit and will require our letting go of the need to be right. For example, let’s say you are at a party and you spend most of the evening talking a pretty girl rather than being with your partner. Your partner then tells you “I really did not feel we were a couple tonight. You were all over this girl” and you respond “What are talking about? I saw how John could not stop following you all evening. Is there something going on between the two of you? Also, the dress you wore is way too provocative!”. When the deflector cannot find an argument, he can always use your own reaction against you. So in this situation, he could also say “Why are you so negative all the time? I am really tired of your constant jealousy. I feel I am suffocating!”

  • Labeling
labeling

While useful in communication for our thinking process, labeling can become a coping mechanism to avoid feeling some unpleasant emotions triggered by other people. In cases of parental alienation, the alienating parent labels the targeted parent as bad, dangerous, irresponsible, hurtful and unreliable so as to encourage the children to abandon and hurt him/her. Because of morality and personal values, a person has to be made bad before we can hurt them. This is a well-known fact in the world of politics. The nazis called the Slavic people underman and the Jews filthy contagious rats so as to dehumanize their opponents before exterminating them. The far right French government of Vichy that was an ally of the nazis during the second World War treated the French resistance as terrorists. In the aftermath of 9/11, the US government made up a story that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction ready to use against the US and that he had ties with al-Qaeda terrorists to justify their invasion of Irak to the American public. However the real motive was to keep control over Middle East oil and preserve the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. These are extreme examples but labeling creates distance between us and the person we label and prevents connection at a basic human level. When we label someone, we shield ourselves from the uncomfortable reflection they provide to us. It is another way to avoid seeing our shadow. It is another attempt by the mind to shut itself from feeling. We can label someone as young to imply they are too inexperienced for us to learn anything from them. We can label someone as irresponsible and lazy so that we do not feel the guilt that we are not helping them. We can also use labels to put people on a pedestal whether they are a celebrity, a successful businessperson, or a spiritual teacher. We idealize them and we cease to see them as a person too. We use the connection to boost our self-esteem by association or to extract valuable information from them. This is why celebrities avoid associating with fans as they feel objectified. Only equal partnerships with a balance of giving and receiving feel nurturing. So we use labeling to connect and disconnect from people independently of how we truly feel about them. Instead we can make an effort to feel the essence of anyone or anything we come into contact whether it is a prince, a beggar, a child, an animal, a tree or even a crystal.

Read part IV – Fear-based immature coping mechanisms

Part II – Neurotic defense and coping mechanisms

Read Part I – Pathological defense mechanisms

neurotic Woody Allen

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Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, depressed mood, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, and loneliness. People who are neurotic respond worse to life pressures and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult.

Neurotic defense mechanisms are actually fairly common in adults, as they offer quick relief with the serious disadvantage of negatively impacting intimate relationships, work and quality of life.

  • Somatization or conversion
clueless doctor with psychosomatic disease

Because of the mind body connection, mental and emotional issues may be expressed in the physical body. Conversion or somatization is a defense mechanism whereby the anxiety caused by repressed impulses and feelings are ‘converted’ into a physical complaint. It is the transformation of negative feelings towards others or oneself into a physical ailment. It is the attempt for the body to express the real emotional issue in order to bring it to conscious awareness for resolution. Psychosomatic diseases fall into that category. I have discussed this topic in-depth in a previous article. Children who are deeply enmeshed with a mother struggling with anxiety issues fall automatically sick when the mother is too stressed. This way, she comes to the rescue of the ailing child who fills her inner void. When I was 13, I started developing stomachaches, nausea symptoms and high anxiety before math exams though I was a top student. My mother brought me to various doctors who would prescribe me with aspirin or simply said it would get better with time. In reality, I had suffered severe abandonment traumas when I was 9, and for various reasons, my subconscious mind believed that I needed perfect math grades not to be abandoned again. This was too much pressure to “stomach” for a teenager. In the software company I was running in the Silicon Valley, I used to manage a bright CTO who had problems with authority because of unresolved trauma with his father. A couple of times every year, we would have disagreements that would quickly escalate. He would get very upset, then fall sick and things would calm down a couple of days later. This pattern must have happened over a dozen times. Because he could not afford losing his job, he would convert or somatize his negative feelings towards his superior into an illness. For this reason, it is important to listen to our body to early identify the process of somatization which would give us a clue on what we need to work on emotionally. There is a lot of valuable information on the Internet about the spiritual meaning of any disease or ailment. Read it when you are having a physical symptom and feel how this resonates with you to identify the emotional source of the ailment. Then perform a soul retrieval process to release and heal the emotions linked to the painful memory. If you are consistent and diligent doing this, you will hardly ever get sick. According to Dr Bruce Lipton, up to 90% of all doctor visits are directly related to stress. Through meditation and inner listening, we can work through the difficult emotions consciously so that they do not manifest physically. In case of somatization, a skilled therapist or life coach can contribute much more to healing than a family doctor.

  • Tics and Tourette syndrome
Bob Saget Tourette Syndrome

Tics are rapid movements or sounds that are repeated over and over for no reason. A person with a tic cannot control the movement or sounds. Examples of common tics include throat clearing, eye blinking, arm jerking, shoulder shrugging or sniffing. Tics often get worse when a person feels stressed, tired, anxious, or excited which confirms that they are psychosomatic. This is a sub category of somatization as a defense mechanism. The body expresses the thoughts and feelings that are unacceptable for the mind to see.

  • Displacement
displacement of anger towards a child

Displacement occurs when a person represses emotions or impulses that they feel towards another person. Because they feel that it is irrational, socially unacceptable or too risky to demonstrate such feelings, the psyche prevents them from being converted into actions. However, the feelings are instead displaced towards a person or animal whom it is easier to express such sentiments for, and unfortunately it is typically someone more vulnerable. When I was 10 years old, after my parents had separated, I lived alone with my father. Once, he came home early in the evening as I was watching TV. He probably had a bad day and displaced it all on me. He started by turning off the TV, which elicited protest from me, which led into spanking and crying alone in my bedroom. Unfortunately, we all have been both the persecutor and the recipient of displacement with our loved ones. This is very common with married couples. After a hard day at work, we are likely to bring back the negativity back home, which creates inevitably an argument with our spouse. Animals are also common victims of displacement and the media abounds with stories of animal cruelty. Children who are cruel towards animals are often the ones who are abused by their primary caregivers, and this is how the cycle of abuse is passed on.

  • Dissociation
dissociated girl

When the world around us appears to be unbearable, we may use dissociation as a defense mechanism to momentarily lose our connection to the world around us. We would feel separated from the outside world, as though we exist in another realm. We may enter a state of daydreaming, staring into space and letting our mind wander. When we are dissociated, we are highly suggestible and this fact is well too known by mind control cult trainers. When there is dissociation, the mind fragments as a way of self-preservation. The traumatic memories are compartmentalized into a separate fragment so that the front personality may continue to function. With repeated traumas, the front personality may lose conscious awareness of the other abused personalities that get more and more repressed. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) originates from dissociation. Repeated exposure to dangerous situations will lead to complex PTSD and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). In most extreme cases, the victim will develop DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) or multiple front personalities that have no conscious awareness of each other. Recovering the traumatic memories through journaling or with a skilled and compassionate therapist, doing parts work are the most effective ways to reintegrate the personality.

  • Hoarding and excessive cleanliness
old hoarder

When individuals feel excessively powerless towards relationships and other people, they will move their attention from people to objects to regain a sense of control. Manic cleaners will compensate their internal chaos and powerlessness towards people by ensuring extreme control over the objects in their environment. On the opposite, the hoarders are creating layers of stuff to protect themselves from the perceived hostile environment in order to recreate a false sense of security. Hoarders are coping with their inner worthlessness by keeping all objects that are seen as worthless to other people. It is their desperate attempt not to feel disposable to other people. They identify with the junk that they keep. To overcome this disorder, they need to feel consciously the excruciating pain of worthlessness and powerlessness experienced towards other people that originated from their childhood. There are some famous hoarders. Nicolas Cage has a collection of rare stuffed birds, lizards, snakes, an octopus, a sixty-seven million year old dinosaur skull, and a collection of shrunken heads. Angelina Jolie started collecting knives at age fourteen. As a teenager, her interest in them veered towards self-destruction. She would use the knives she collected to self-harm, and has also been known to involve them while having sex. We need to remember that for a cutter, self harm gives a sense of release hence safety, which is counterintuitive. We are all hoarders to some various degrees and we will have a tendency to hoard items that make us feel safe. Collectors are refined hoarders, and the many rich people hoard money for the same reason: safety.

  • Hypochondriasis
Hypochondriac humor

Hypochondriasis is the excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness. By going from doctor to doctor in search of what is wrong with them, they avoid taking responsibility for the emotional dynamic that created the ailment in the first place. This is their way to avoid the painful buried emotions. They suffer from a deep sense of powerlessness, and they see themselves as a victim in a threatening world. They feel a great sense of relief when a medical professional can label their ailment. They have projected the omniscience and omnipotence of their parents onto health professionals. Their idealization of the doctors as the ultimate authority translates metaphorically as their resistance to see their parents’ imperfection in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own life. Making doctors or parents wrong would provoke too much anxiety as they feel incapable of overcoming life challenges on their own. I have a brother who is a hypochondriac. He is in fact resisting to see his mother’s shadows as he is too afraid to detach from her since he sees her as his only genuine support. By making what is wrong about them external, they do not have to face the shame of creating the ailment. Their low self-esteem would not be able to bear it. The heavily subsidized French health care system is making it easier for this disorder to develop among all social classes of the population while it is a luxury in the USA because of the prohibitive cost of healthcare.

  • Sociopathy
I am not a psychopath, I am a high-functioning sociopath - Benedict Cumberbatch

Because of repeated emotional abuse or neglect, sociopaths have lost the capacity for empathy. They have lost the ability to feel. Their heart has been completely walled off and they are unable to feel the effect they have on other people. Many of them want to be a good person however but it is completely driven by their mind. They can perceive but do not feel. By shutting down their heart, they avoid the painful feelings in order to get on with their life. They do not understand why people have such strong reactions towards them while they meant no harm. Their lack of attunement causes them to hurt people unintentionally. They are unwillingly toxic. Because of this, they do not trust themselves and many turn into codependents (the ones that want to be good). Because they have disconnected from their heart, they do not have a core so they are unreliable, and they will throw you under the bus if someone more influential comes along. When people lash at them, they would typically deflect back to avoid facing the shame of their own emotional condition. It is difficult to heal sociopathy because the sociopath would first need to feel what is wrong with them but they do not feel anything. Typically, it takes some external tragedy to start cracking their walls and to rehabilitate their heart. Shamanic medicine can be extremely effective to help them feel again. One of my primary caregivers was sociopathic. He would often forget my birthday or if he remembered, he would make a mistake on my age when I was a kid. He would give me the wrong type of presents (free branded stuff he would get from his company), have no picture of me in his apartment while his new wife had pictures of their son (my younger half brother) everywhere or make me sleep on a couch while a bed with clean linens was available. I would get upset but he could not understand why.

  • Reaction formation
Frollo and Esmeralda

With reaction formation, we convert the unconscious wishes or impulses that are perceived to be dangerous into their opposites and we display a behavior that is completely the opposite of what we really want or feel. We take the opposite belief because the true belief causes anxiety. For example, a man may experience feelings of love towards a married woman. Because the fulfillment of his desires would contradict social norms regarding acceptable behavior, a reaction formation occurs – the man may experience feelings of dislike towards her – the opposite of the original feelings. In the same way, a person who has been socialized to believe that intimate same-sex relationships are wrong or sinful, but is attracted to members of the same sex would show unusual animosity towards the people s/he is sexually attracted to, i.e. the LGBT community. In Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame De Paris, the priest Frollo experiences reaction formation towards Esmeralda. He is madly in love with her which is not acceptable for a man of God so he hangs her to death.

  • Shoulding and musting
shoulding and musting

There are some people who cannot help giving constant free advice, correcting others or have more rules and regulations than the army, navy and air force combined! They are impossible to be around. Shoulding and musting is their own way to cope with their own inadequacy, core shame and lack of self-love. They constantly see what other people do wrong in order to feel better about themselves because of their poor self-image. They focus on others’ faults so that they do not have to see their own shadows. This behavior isolates them from other people so they end up reliving the abandonment trauma and the feelings of worthlessness that they had buried. Many so-called spiritual guides fall into that category and they cannot help but fix everyone around them constantly. A friend of mine has a husband who loves skiing. Yet, he cannot help giving ski lessons to his wife and daughter always emphasizing what they are doing wrong on the slopes. As a result, they do not want to join him anymore in his favorite activity and he fell into a depression, feeling rejected and unloved. As shoulding and musting are a form of projection, they need to face their own inadequacy and the childhood traumas that originated from it.

  • Regression
child wetting bed

It is the temporary reversion to an earlier stage of development. Regression functions as form of retreat, enabling a person to psychologically go back in time to a period when the person felt safer. A child may begin to suck their thumb again or wet the bed after the separation of his parents. I believe I started my puberty very late because aspects of me did not want to grow up after my parents’ divorce. One of my partners’ child was stuck on the anal phase though he was 8 years old. This was his attempt to be back as a baby when he used to spend so much time with mum. Besides, stress of adult life and the related anxiety may lead us to seek comfort in things which we associate with more secure, happier times. Comfort food is the food we were given as a child and it is soothing to have it when we are depressed. It brings back memories of safety and happiness. We may be drawn to eat the same candies we used to have as a kid, or watch the old movies and cartoons of our childhood. I have a friend who has been through a bad break-up and meets friends every week to play Dungeons & Dragons. When done consciously, regression may be healthy, provide good feelings and can even be a form of inner child work.

  • Repression
repressing emotions

Repression is perhaps the most significant of defense mechanisms in that repressed feelings and impulses can lead to the use of many other mechanisms. Repression blocks many unpleasant feelings that could cause too much anxiety for the conscious mind. However forgetting about a problem does not solve the problem. In the same way, the buried emotions keep influencing us in dramatic ways through the law of mirroring. Our society has the same fear towards negative emotions so the anti-depressant market size is $16B. It is critical that we learn to accept the discomfort of unpleasant feelings and emotions and learn from them. They point us to emotional aspects in us that require healing just like the pain of a physical injury is conducive to healing. For many of us, repression has become second nature so the toxic emotions can poison us from within, and can be the cause of auto-immune diseases and even cancer. In this situation, the use of shamanic medicine can be a life saver. After losing my children to parental alienation, I had accumulated a lot of toxic shame, I felt horrible and stuck. When I took Ayahuasca at that time, I purged intensely and cried for over 10 hours. This was a very difficult journey but it healed me profoundly and probably averted a serious disease. Meditation is a more natural and less drastic way to scan the painful emotions that want to come to the surface. It is important to embrace them and work with them consciously to stay healthy. They have a lot to teach us. We are light and shadow, and integration means accepting and loving both of these aspects.

  • Phobia
arachnophobia

Phobia are an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. It may come from a traumatic memory or may be simply a transgenerational trauma. Adolf Hitler was the product of an incestual and pedophile relationship between his father Alois Hitler and Klara his mother who started to be sexually abused by Alois at age 9.  Adolf’s little mouth also served as a servile, frightened female orifice for his violent father. It is then not surprising that as an adult, the supreme ruler of Germany, Adolf was afraid to sleep alone at night, and suffered a mouth washing compulsion. He was so sickened by the thought of putting flesh in his mouth that he became a vegetarian. I have acrophobia (fear of heights) but I believe this was passed on from my mother to me. I have worked on it for many years in order to climb a number of high mountains in the world. Because the fear is so deeply rooted in the subconscious, it is difficult to control and heal a phobia. I had a partner who would feel extremely anxious when it was very windy. As a child, she would be cruelly abused by a family acquaintance every time it was windy. Her perpetrator was in the same way abused by his own father when it was very windy. Other common phobia are aerophobia (fear of flying), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), cynophobia (fear of dogs), astraphobia (fear of lighting), trypanophobia (fear of injections), agoraphobia (fear of getting trapped) or mysophobia (fear of germs). One of my former partners had trypophobia, which is is the aversion to the sight of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes, or bumps. After doing some soul retrieval work with her, we realized it came from repressed memories of seeing animal corpses decomposing in her traumatic childhood. Phobias often come with repression and displacement too. In American psychiatrist Scott Peck’s bestseller People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, there is a heavily enmeshed daughter with her mother who has arachnophobia. The daughter feels subconsciously that she is being eaten alive by her mother.

  • Catastrophizing
catastrophizing woman

Catastrophizing is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing can generally take two different forms: making a catastrophe out of a current situation, and imagining making a catastrophe out of a future situation. There are many reasons why we may be affected with this condition. Bad things happened to us in the past so we are afraid they may happen again, the most extreme case being PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). Because of childhood traumas, we may have the core belief that we are bad so bad things should happen to us. People suffering from BPD are catastrophizing because they suffer from disorganized attachment, meaning that they were abused by the same people they had to bond with. As a result, they always live on the edge and never feel a sense of safety. To heal from that condition, we need to create an internal part that can reassure us, and through repetition, as the doom scenario does not occur, the catastrophizer within us will have less and less control. If your partner suffers from this condition, make sure to always have your cell phone with you, and update her/him often not to worry them unnecessarily.

  • Apathic withdrawal
apathic girl

Apathic withdrawal is a direct consequence of repression. We put ourselves to sleep so that the painful emotions would not surface. The repressed emotions poison our internal emotional world and we become depressed as a result, lacking vitality, enthusiasm and interest in life. We may spend over 10 hours a day sleeping and spending the rest of the time eating or watching TV. Apathy is one of the most powerless states we can experience, and to get out of it, we need to make space first for raw negative emotions such as anger, grief, fear, guilt or sadness before contemplating experiencing positive emotions. Over medicated people often have this condition as the anti-depressants are repressing their toxic emotions that need instead to be released consciously. To step out from this condition, it is important to perform activity that we really love or feel some sense of inspiration. We need to stretch ourselves but not to the point of breaking. Being in a supportive environment with people that genuinely appreciate us can make a world of difference too. Many husbands or wives have a minor form of this coping mechanism as they start feeling very tired, sometimes to the point of falling asleep, when a difficult argument erupts with their spouse.

Read part III on immature coping mechanisms

Part I – Pathological defense and coping mechanisms

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Defense and coping mechanisms

Life as a human being is tough, and we are often given more than we can handle. When under stress, our psyche is determined to help us stay safe so that we may survive and overcome challenges coming our way. There is a large variety of common defense mechanisms that we employ to protect the ego, and they operate at an unconscious level to help ward off unpleasant feelings. Our defense mechanisms are another way we cope with anxieties. In psychoanalysis terms, coping mechanisms arise because we feel threatened, or because our id or superego (in psychoanalytic terms) becomes too demanding. Some psychologists differentiate between defense and coping mechanisms. According to them, a defense mechanism is unconscious and automatic, while a coping mechanism is a conscious attempt from the psyche to deal with a difficult situation.

Ego-defense mechanisms are natural and normal. We will always be using them when external situations that feel threatening and outside our control arise. As we grow older and hopefully wiser, our goal is to respond with more mature and adequate defense mechanisms.

On the other hand, because of past traumas, and unhealed aspects of ourselves, we are often displaying defense mechanisms that are not adapted to our external reality. In this situation, most of the focus has to be on releasing and healing the past traumas to minimize and eventually eliminate the trigger of the defense mechanism.

Finally, our lack of self-love, personal honesty, and self-awareness are responsible for many other maladapted defense mechanisms. The ego is terrified to see its shadows and will do anything to avoid seeing the truth about itself.

Initially, before changing anything, we need to develop an awareness of the coping mechanisms we use and observe our psyche without judgment. Eventually, through self-observation, we will be able to respond with better-adapted defense mechanisms to enjoy a happier and more fulfilling life.

Not all defense or coping mechanisms are created equal. We can categorize them in four main categories:

  • Pathological: There is a loss of contact with reality. We are in the realm of noticeable mental illness and irrationality. There is potential danger, harm or abuse for the individual and the people surrounding him/her.
  • Neurotic: Fairly common in adults, it offers short-term advantages in coping, but can often cause serious long-term problems in relationships, work and in enjoying life over the long run.
  • Immature: Acceptable with adolescents, they are unfortunately far too common with adults who have not developed their emotional intelligence and self-awareness. They are maladapted to the environment and the external reality.
  • Mature: They are only found with adults with high EQ, and they optimize success in life and relationships. They are respectful of others. They promote personal integration, resilience, creativity, learning and wisdom.

Part I – Pathological defense mechanisms

  • Delusional projection, paranoia, grandiosity
Delusional projection, paranoia, grandiosity

This is often found in schizophrenia. The person lives in her/his own imaginary reality and is suffering from grossly frank delusions about external reality, often of persecutory nature. It is often found in cult leaders who have adopted a grandiose idea of the self, and are looking for weak followers to adopt their insane beliefs. For example, using my own personal experience, Robert Burton from the Fellowship of Friends believed he was an angel trapped in a human body. During dinner, he would often leave an empty space for his « buddy » Leonardo Da Vinci whom he saw as his divine father. I have another acquaintance who sees himself fighting evil forces with the Son of God. According to him, he constantly fights antichrists, vampires, demons and hundreds of thousands of Chinese, American and Nazi soldiers but he feels relieved having 100,000 pages of prayers to help him (his own words). I also had a former girlfriend who was convinced I was attacking her psychically after we broke up.

  • Splitting
splitting

Splitting, also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking, is the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is quite common in romantic relationships where the object of love often  turns into an object of hate. People suffering from borderline personality disorder will have a tendency to see their partner, as all good at the start of the relationship, or all bad, typically after the relationship is over to deal with their fear of abandonment. Brad Pitt was Angelina Jolie’s soul mate but after they separated, she could only see a child abuser in him. The person using splitting carries an enormous amount of shame and has low self-esteem. As a result, they are unable to see their own shadow and will project it back to the former lover or close friend. Splitting is also one of the marks of parental alienation. The alienating parent’s weak ego can only identify with the positive aspects of being a protector so s/he will turn the children into victims in order to make the targeted parent a dangerous perpetrator. Splitting is a defense mechanism that helps to attach to someone, detach from someone and deal with the anxiety related to rejection and abandonment as we are wired to run away from the bad and dangerous person, and bond with the nice and safe person.

  • Extreme projection
extreme projection

People are so afraid of their own physical, moral, or psychological deficiency that they project it onto another individual or a group. This is also known as scapegoating. Adolf Hitler was a repressed homosexual for most of his life but he arrested over 100,000 of his fellow gay and lesbian German subjects on the basis of their sexual orientation. The most homophobic people are often homosexual themselves. This type of defense mechanism where we project onto others what we do not want to see in ourselves is also called reaction formation. Sometimes, multiple defense mechanisms are at play at the same time. In family systems, parents will project their good parts onto the golden child while projecting their shadows onto the identified patient, who serves as a scapegoat for the whole family. One of my former girlfriends, who survived horrendous abuse in her childhood, started seeing me towards the end of our relationship as her childhood abuser and a dangerous psychopath. By the same token, the most jealous people are often the ones having affairs on the side.

  • Denial
denial

It is the refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening. We ignore anxiety-provoking thoughts by stating they are invalid. In the BBC documentary The Secret Swami, Isaac Tigrett, the founder of Hard Rock Café, stated that he believed that there was truth to the rumors of Sathya Sai Baba’s actions of pedophilia and sexual abuse towards thousands of his young male followers. But he also stated that such behavior would not change his faith in Sai Baba as he had to preserve his self image and his relationship with the guru he had donated over $100 million. All cult members rely heavily on denial to turn the other way when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the deviance of their guru. Children raised with an abusive parent also resort to denial to make this parent safe to feel safe themselves. I had an acquaintance who was sexually abused by her father all of her childhood and she still believed that no one in this world had loved her more than her father. In 2015, 12 years after the infamous invasion of Irak, still half of Republicans believed that weapons of mass destruction were found in Irak.

  • Addiction
addiction

Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop an activity or consuming a substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. There are various degrees of addictions, and in its light form, it can be considered neurotic but the addiction can unfortunately often take a pathological turn. The most common addictions are alcoholism, smoking, drugs (both illicit and prescription drugs), overeating, gambling, sex, coffee, video games, workaholism and social media. I covered this topic in-depth previously. People, politicians and institutions often fail to realize that the addiction is only a symptom or a coping mechanism and not the core issue. As a consequence, in order to heal, we need to look and heal the emotional dynamic that the addiction is trying to block. Addiction to smoking is often linked to premature weaning, which resulted in poor self-image. Substance abuse is usually connected with the fear of being alone, and feeling disconnected with people. Genuine healing can take time so going to a less harmful coping mechanism can help tremendously too. Many alcoholics who were destroying their lives and those around them have turned to dogmatic religions (ex. Born Again Christian). This still represents a big improvement in their quality of life.

  • Self harm
self harm, cutting
hand with fresh and old scars of self destroyer

Nonsuicidal self-injury, often simply called self-injury, is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It is typically not meant as a suicide attempt but rather a drastic way to cope with extreme emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. One can only fathom the degree of emotional pain one must experience to feel release or even pleasure in self-mutilation. Unfortunately, while self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it’s usually followed by the shame provoked by this behavior and the return of painful emotions. Teal Swan who used to be a cutter as a way to cope from a very traumatic childhood is one of the rare few who dared to talk about this taboo subject.

  • Stockholm syndrome
stockholm syndrome

Harmless victims feel so powerless in the hands of their perpetrators that they develop a psychological alliance with their abuser as a survival strategy. As they see their perpetrator as all-powerful, there is nowhere to hide. Unconditional compliance feels unconsciously the only way to stay alive. Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst, was taken and held hostage by the Symbionese Liberation Army, “an urban guerilla group”, in 1974. She was recorded denouncing her family as well as the police under her new name, “Tania”, and was later seen working with the SLA to rob banks in San Francisco. She publicly asserted her sympathetic feelings towards the SLA and their pursuits as well. It took years of therapy for satanic ritual abuse poster child Teal Swan before she could acknowledge that her abuser was not her real father. A lighter and more common form of the Stockholm syndrome will get people with abusive parents to select similarly abusive partners in their adult life. Their wires have been crossed, as they had to create the association danger=love to survive their early life of mistreatment.

  • Excessive control, dominance, jealousy and possession
extreme control, dominance

A person may feel so powerless from within, that they may compensate by exercising absolute control over other human beings, and sometimes animals. The most common form is the jealous husband or wife who gets into rage if their spouse speaks with someone of the opposite gender. They have an innate need to control all aspects of their spouses’ life. This control can also be seen in cases of parental alienation where the alienating parent is exercising full emotional control of their children, who have become their narcissistic objects. The same behaviors can be witnessed in the workplace where an authoritative boss is dictating the life of their employees for his/her personal benefit rather than advancing the company vision. Harvey Weinstein used his position in the movie business to sexually assault hundreds of young actresses such as Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow. Cult leaders fall into the same category as they take full control of their disciples’ life for their personal benefit. In the David Berg’s cult Children of God, women were nothing short of slaves. In addition of raising children, taking care of the household, cooking, cleaning, they had to give themselves willingly to the elders (“sexual sharing”) and at night, they had to enroll new members prostituting themselves if required (“flirty fishing”). Dictators  have the most negative impact with this pathological coping mechanism as they exercise absolute control over entire states. Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi who was Libya’s supreme leader for 34 years was one of these despicable human beings, but there are so many more today creating hell for their subjects. Actually, there are 50 countries in the world with autocratic government and this contributes to billions of people’s misery.

  • Demonic possession
demonic possession

This is a more controversial defense mechanism that I am listing here however I have personally witnessed it on numerous occasions. Demonic possession has both terrified and fascinated humankind since the beginning of time, and this is why so many movies have been inspired by it. Under very severe stress or abuse, the front personalities may vacate the body, leaving an empty shell for demonic entities to take over. It is a defense mechanism, because it is a desperate attempt to survive by exiting the current reality. Unfortunately, when the front personalities come back into the body, they typically have to face, with indescribable shame, the horrible actions committed by the dark entities in their absence. Actually, many serial killers say that they were possessed by a demon that takes control of them when they are about to commit their heinous crimes. This type of personality dissociation is well known of satanic cults that use torture and the most extreme of sexual and physical abuse to insert demonic entities in children to transform them into obedient mind-controlled slaves. I became more aware of this sad reality as I fell in love with a woman that had been abused by a satanic cult all of her childhood. 

  • Psychopathy
psychopath

Similar to a sociopath, a psychopath has lost all ability for empathy because of repeated and extreme childhood traumas. Whereas a sociopath is still striving to be a good and a moral person from their mind, the psychopath is immoral and has given up on restraining his dark pulsions. He has typically formed some insane dogma to justify his deviant actions. An example of this can be found in the book Mein Kampf that Hitler wrote before he took control of Germany. Because the psychopath has fully disconnected from his heart, he is also fully disconnected from other people and sees them as separate of himself. This is the basis of Satanic cults where exploitation and vampirism are seen as a way to get stronger and more powerful. In this gloomy view of the universe, energy is limited and each one of us is alone so needs to use others as objects for personal gratification. Psychopaths have very deep buried traumas within them but they have completely shut down so as not to feel them. They only feel alive when they torture, abuse and brutalize their victims to mirror the internal aspects of them that are in hell. The more horror they perform, the more they disconnect emotionally to cope with the little left of their conscience and the more deviant they get. A tragic dismal path of destruction surrounds them.

Read part II – Neurotic defense mechanisms

An alternative way to understand disease to take control of your health

Running in nature

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The USA is spending 18% of its GDP or $3.5 trillion in health care every year. This is a confirmation that healing is a key concern of our society and most individuals. As we all know, however, our healthcare system is far from being efficient. While I marvel at organ transplants, our ability to get people to survive the worst accidents and treat infectious diseases, healthcare is still predominantly a reflection of our collective vibration of powerlessness and dis-empowerment. Most people are still looking for this magic pill or that omniscient doctor to save them from their misery. The rapid rise of bariatric surgery (procedures performed on people who have obesity) perfectly illustrates this symptom. People would pay over $20,000 to reduce the size of their stomach with a gastric band before even considering changing their diet, following an exercise plan, examining their childhood traumas or changing their lifestyle. This trend is fortunately changing with more and more people taking control of their health, educating themselves with the ample information available on the Internet and looking at alternative medicine, just in case mainstream approaches prove to be ineffective. Modern medicine continues to treat patients’ bodies as a machine independent of their emotional, mental and spiritual aspects, and therein lies its main failure. As a result, they treat symptoms rather than the root cause of the ailment.

I have been exposed to emotional, mental and spiritual healing for the last 26 years, and I have developed many healing modalities that have served me tremendously throughout my life. My healing clients are able to benefit from this experience. We first need to realize that most diseases have an emotional component.

As an example, alternative therapists understand now that:

  • Stomach issues relate to stress related to our environment composed of people and situations that we are not able to “stomach” anymore
  • Constipation indicates our resistance of letting go of past situations, people or ideas often because of guilt.  The primary function of the bowel is to evacuate what is no longer useful to the body and our mindset can affect this function.
  • Back pain is a reflection to a perceived lack of support
  • Knee issues are a resistance to move forward both physically and psychologically
  • Headaches are indicative of over-thinking, over-analysis, judgment towards self and others. It is an attempt of our mind to control everything instead of working in harmony with the other aspects of the self for healing
  • And so on, so forth…
stomach pain

As we live our life, pollution, toxic food, people or environment, strenuous activities, radiation, stressful situations, personal tragedies or even accidents may negatively impact our health. Fortunately, we have everything within us to regenerate and heal ourselves, mostly through sleep, healthy food, positive relationships and environments, and an active lifestyle. Health is a state of balance that we strive towards naturally as we are attuned to ourselves and let go of resistance.

From my perspective, there are 6 major causes to all illnesses that we create from the lighter to the deeper:

  1. Not listening to our physical needs

Most people get a cold when they push their physical body harder though they are already depleted of energy. With experience, one can notice the early signs of exhaustion, the first sensation of a sore throat and give one’s body the needed rest before sickness comes in. Light ailment is usually just a call for a forced and needed rest. In the same way, we may stay in adverse physical environments (polluted, too cold, too hot, too much stimulation) too long and we disregard the signs when our body tells us to get out. At other times, the body needs to move & exercise, to get good comfort food, light healthy food or to fast and refrain from eating. A reason why health and wellness is such a confusing field with every expert saying something different is because there are no rules. We are different, and we need something different at different times. We live in a society that is predominantly ruled by the mental. This aspect of us always tries to be in control by rules & principles that are often disconnected to our physical reality in the present. 

listening to inner voice

2. Not meeting our emotional needs

What is true to our physical body is also true to our emotional self. We stay in toxic relationships or toxic work situations where we swim in harmful negative emotions. It is then just a matter of time that this emotional corrosion will eventually manifest physically. We have the fundamental needs to love and to be loved, to feel worthy, to feel safe, to belong, to be creative and to grow. If we feel continuously deprived of these core emotional needs, we will develop psychosomatic diseases. Depression, anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, sexual dysfunction, stress disorders, and insomnia are some examples of the many unfortunate psychological disorders we may develop as a result.2. Repressed emotions

3. Repressed emotions

Life is movement, and emotions are powerful energies circulating in the body. When emotions are unable to move anymore, and cannot find an outlet, they may become poisonous. Every family or work environment has a set of emotions that are unacceptable to express whether it is anger, sadness, fear but also even excitement or joy. In order to be loved and accepted, we therefore repress these emotions. The organ corresponding to the emotion will then get impacted. Chinese medicine is well aware of this fact. For example; repressed anger will create liver imbalance, repressed sadness will affect the lungs, repressed fear will disrupt the kidneys and repressed joy will create heart issues.

Repressed emotions

4. Poor beliefs about self

We are all familiar with the power of belief and that mind creates reality. Negative core beliefs about the self will create lower-vibration emotions that will eventually take a toll on our physical health. The challenge that we face is that most of our negative self-concept is subconscious, as our ego desperately attempts to hide our dark side from the conscious mind. This is why it takes bravery and introspection for this type of inner work. The most common beliefs I have encountered in my practice are “I am unlovable”, “I am bad/evil/dark”, “I am dangerous” or “I am stupid”.

5. Unhealed past traumas

When our conscious mind is unable to deal with a traumatic situation, it automatically shuts down. Dissociation is a survival mechanism that we have used for millions of years. Unfortunately, we do not fully escape the trauma when we dissociate but a fragmentation of the self occurs. The traumatized aspects get buried deep into the subconscious so that our conscious self can go on with life. Some of the buried emotions are highly toxic without counting the tremendous energy required to keep these traumatic events to come back to the surface. The body will keep fighting subconsciously the traumatic events of the past. For example, I have seen women victim of incest or rape as a child, becoming obese, having adverse skin reactions or become overly masculine depending on the degree that they feel their beauty or femininity got them into trouble. Modern medicine is powerless towards these disorders as there is no pill that exists to heal a past traumatic event.

6. Obsolete coping mechanisms

As we go through challenging life situations, we develop coping strategies. For example, we may have developed inner walls or shut down emotionally to deal with a traumatic childhood. These coping strategies may have helped us survive a very abusive childhood environment but it is easy to see how it may isolate us in our adult life. On the same token, we may have developed an addiction (ex. smoking, drinking, drugs, pornography, gambling, video games, social media, being a workaholic etc…) every time we come close to a dreadful emotion. The addiction, which is actually a coping strategy, will eventually have a negative effect on our health. Another common coping mechanism is to numb our senses and in this case, hearing or seeing dysfunctions may follow. Our body always has our best interest in mind so there is always a positive intention in the disease itself. An autoimmune disease attempts to eliminate poisonous or discordant aspects of the self not understanding that by doing so, it is destroying us by the same token. The same is true for cancer. An obese person is creating extra layers of fat to feel protected against a dangerous environment when it feels so hard to keep any boundaries. We react to a perceived threat through freeze, fight, flight or fawn. We may repeat the same strategy over and over again independently of the environment. For example, an overuse of the freeze strategy may result in Bell’s palsy.

Meditation

This is why so many research studies have shown that meditation can have such a positive impact on our health. Most disease are created and spread because we are not attuned to our emotions, feelings or body sensations. Meditation is the practice to look inward to explore our feelings, emotions, thoughts and physical sensations. We are always receiving new impressions and we are always shifting as a result. Our modern life is unfortunately not tailored to this inner listening. It praises instead the tyranny of the mind over body and emotions. Eventually, the body revolts or crashes.

Though it may not simple at first, there are ways to reverse this process through the conscious listening of our inner world. All emotions, even negative emotions, are our friends. There are here to move the energy around and restore a state of balance. This is why healthy kids go through so many emotions in a single day, from laughing, to crying, being playful or feeling cranky. If you have suffered loss, the emotions of despair, anger and sadness will help you heal. If your boundaries are violated, the positive side of anger will direct you to take action to ensure your safety. Simply learn to create a safe container to express all emotions during your meditation with full awareness. The state of inner alignment is the most conducive to physical and emotional health, and your feelings will point you in the right direction.

Wim Hof in the Himalayas

I have not been sick for over a year, and I have not had a discomfort that lasted for more than a couple of hours while 2018 has been a very challenging year marked by personal tragedy. I can tell you from my personal experience that one can heal from everything. I have some simple principles that have been critical to my healing and well being that I have listed below. 

  1. Meditation is my refuge. I meditate frequently, ideally every morning, to check-in and create a day according to my values, inspiration and feelings of the moment. But at the very least, I meditate as soon as I do not feel quite right
  2. I am committed to become aware and express all my emotions. I am careful to create a non judgmental safe container for these emotions. Authenticity is the courage to see my feelings for what they are without judgment. It is the commitment to my personal truth independently of the consequences
  3. When required, and when inner listening of my feelings and emotions is not enough, I commit to follow through with actions. This could be calling a friend you have not heard from for a while, or going on a run if my body feels sluggish.
  4. I commit to self care through a healthy emotional environment, a healthy lifestyle, to rest when I am tired and to strive to meet my authentic physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs
  5. I trust my body in guiding me in what I can eat and drink. Sometimes, this may be fruits, avoiding alcohol, vegetable or comfort food.
  6. I strive to live a conscious life, be positive and act as the best version of myself. But when I do not feel well, I do not bulldoze myself but commit to shadow work to use this opportunity to integrate unhealed aspects of myself. Shadow work means being present and exploring the negative emotion to elicit answers about the healing or actions that need to take place.
  7. I stretch myself positively with compelling goals but never to the point of breaking
  8. I believe in balance. Balance of physical, mental, social and spiritual activities. Balance of activity and rest. Balance of work and fun. Balance of solitude and together time. Balance in taking care of self and others. Balance of order and chaos. When done right, balance results naturally in a sense of peace and well-being.
Vaillant skiing in Utah

There is nothing more important than health because when we lose it, nothing else matters. We take it for granted and impact it negatively through many small actions every day by not paying attention. But worse, we live in a state of dis-empowerment regarding our health as we were led to believe that our health is dependent on external factors such as germs, genes, pollution or bad luck. It is time for us to take responsibility for our health, build a strong immune system to live a truly fulfilling life.

Earth, the shame planet

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This morning when I woke up, I felt some intense and dark heavy energy. For the last 6 years, meditation has been my refuge when I was faced with challenging emotions. For this reason, I put on my favorite meditation music, sat and started to listen to my internal world. I have verified what Teal teaches, which is that strong emotional triggers can be used as a rope to get deep within yourself and to get unique insights about the healing that needs to be brought forth. Often the strong energy of the trigger will bring on an altered state of consciousness. In this altered state of consciousness, you can see yourself from a higher perspective.

The first energy I felt was connected to the loss of my two children that I have not been able to talk with for almost a year now. A wave of shame ensued. How bad do you have to be if your own children aged 11 and 13 refuse to have any contact with you? At a conscious level, I can understand the psychological dynamics at play. I intellectually understand that because of the many complex aspects involved in this situation I should not be so hard on myself. However I find that my inner child is unable to separate from the deep shame created by this separation.

In my coaching role over the years, I have worked with many people that have daddy issues. Some of them had the most horrible fathers but the children were still trying to have a relationship with their father. They were doing this despite an obvious lack of reciprocity. I am not saying I was the perfect father as I can see that I have made many mistakes along the way as a father. I did what I could with what I knew at the time. Losing all contact with both of my children (like I never existed for them in the first place) feels utterly unfair and cruel. It feels so painful.

At this time during my meditation, I remembered my talk with my friend Avtar in Atenas, Costa Rica. He was telling me that I was making the pain worse by creating a story about the situation that would make me feel worse and solicit other people’s support. I challenged him. I told him that there is a part of us that requires validation, care and concern when we are confronting pain and suffering. Dismissing and discounting the part of us that is suffering is even more damaging. I shared my personal experience with him that I had become an expert at coping. Earlier in my life, I developed the ability to perform & function no matter what the circumstance. I had created a spiritual personality that could always see the silver lining in everything and even convince myself that situations that are traumatic are “all perfect”. While this is true from a higher dimensional perspective, it was only after being with Teal that I realized that I was bypassing and that I had repressed a lot of traumas this way. As a result, they kept manifesting externally. This is exactly what happened with the loss of my children.

My spiritual personality had shut down my inner child and left me disconnected. I had lost my spontaneity and my aliveness. Avtar and I agreed that it is important to avoid the two extremes of identifying with the story around the pain and repressing it. There is always a higher alternative which is to fully experience the energy around the trigger without a story and let this energy runs its course without resistance within ourselves.

As I reflected back on our conversation, I let myself fully experience the pain without identification or without the need to create a story around my pain. I went to a higher perspective and saw that I was continuously creating and emitting the energy of loss in my life. I dove into the energy of loss and I saw my life from this perspective. I re-experienced the loss of intimate partners that I was so close to. I felt their betrayal. I felt the pain of losing my stepson. I felt the pain of losing most of my friends who cut all contact with me after I made the decision to leave the cult I was a member of when I was 23. I felt the pain of losing my own children after a horrendous court battle. I felt the pain of suffering the betrayal of colleagues and employees that I worked with so closely for a long time. I have a self-concept that I am a good guy however all these events seem to show a different story. They show a herd of people angry with me, seeing me as an awful person. I acknowledged this fact and sank into the deep shame underneath all these events.

In the meditation, I was brought back to my parents and I was shown their shame. Shamanism teaches us that we inherit all of the unresolved issues of our parents through our genes. My mother lost her own mother when she was 3 years old after a neighbor had reported the abuse of the new stepfather. She became a foster child raised by an old lady. She was taught to shower in the dark because her own nudity was considered shameful. She was forbidden to turn on the light to do her homework so as to not waste the money of her caretaker. She was instructed to use worn ugly clothes in order to not attract the envy and the negative attention of people that were paying for her upbringing through subsidies with their tax money. My mother’s first love died in his early twenties from terminal illness.

My father’s story is also built upon shame. Unbeknownst to him (until he was in his sixties), his mother became pregnant with him after a love affair with a Nazi officer during the Second World War. She moved away and managed to hide the truth of the situation. However in order to avoid a possible punishment, she gave her son away to an old lady in the countryside. She would send her money, and rarely would visit. Though she loved him, she was incapable of hiding her own feelings of shame about this liaison from her son. It was only after getting more stable in her life and marrying the man that I thought was my grandfather that she took her son back. He was 10 years old. At that time, he hardly knew any French and was acting more like a wild animal than a boy of his age. Considering their background, my parents did relatively well. However, all of the shame they were not able to transform was passed to my sister and to myself.

For this incarnation, I chose to be the son of two parents who were struggling with huge shame issues. During this meditation, I saw my soul contract with shame. 4 years ago, during a spiritual experience, I saw how earth was a prison planet. I saw a vision that we were all souls that had deviated from the divine plan. I saw that from our own freewill, we started to hurt other beings in the universe and as a result, were brought to earth to re-learn the consequences of our actions to become benevolent again. From this perspective, we are like fallen angels using earth as our purgatory. Our sense of guilt has brought us to our human experience.

For a couple of years, I volunteered in jail as a chaplain to provide spiritual guidance to inmates. I realized that most convicts carry an immense amount of guilt and this is how they become a match to the experience of jail. There are a lot of people that have committed much worse actions that walk freely in the world today. If they experience no guilt, they would not end up in jail. This is why someone like Doc (Teal’s abuser) is still walking freely today. In this new meditation I saw how shame, even more than guilt, was the energy that was attaching us to earth. It is acting just like the force of gravity.

In the spiritual community, people see Love as being the opposite of Fear. From this new perspective, I could see how all fears stem from shame. When I am jealous, I feel ashamed about not being good enough for my partner. When I am afraid to do public speaking, I am ashamed to look like a fool. When I am afraid to lose my job, I am ashamed that I cannot support myself or ashamed of the disapproval of my supervisor. Most conflicts in relationship emerge from shame as well. We are desperately trying to make each other wrong so that we can be good. This is a deep realization I had with Teal a couple of weeks ago and now, we decided to practice owning our shame consciously rather than deflecting it in order to avoid conflict escalation.

I recently read the excellent book of Ross Rosenberg called ‘The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us’. He describes the codependent, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders and how they play out in relationship dynamics. As a result of reading this book, I realized that all personality disorders live within us in various degrees because they are the direct result of emotional abuse or neglect that took place in our childhood. From that perspective, there is no mental illness but only traumas that have not been released or integrated. When I realized this true cause of personality disorders, I began to see that these personality disorders all come from the shame we acquired in the face of trauma.

As a child, if something bad happens to us, we need to create meaning to deal with the suffering and most of time the meaning we create is that we are bad and this is why we deserve to get into painful experiences. The personality disorder we will develop will depend upon our degree of powerlessness in face of trauma and our own predisposition for coping. Of the three types, the codependent is the least powerless. While still raised in an environment where their emotional needs cannot be met, they are able to somehow affect the response of their caretakers. For example, a child like myself could have felt powerless with his mom’s mood swings, emotional unavailability and dark suicidal thoughts however he may have been able to get his mom’s attention by crying to evoke her pity at the very least. Codependents learn to control other people through various emotional manipulation strategies because they are not able to meet their emotional needs directly.

The codependent has a desperate need to appear to be the good guy to cover up his own inner shame. The two other disorders (Narcissists and Borderlines) develop from complete and utter powerlessness to create any needed emotional reactions from their early caretakers and they will split into 2 groups. The first group develops the ability to shut down their feelings as a coping mechanism to cover their own shame. These people can end up being narcissists, sociopaths or psychopaths. They become unable to feel. They replay their own inner drama externally, often by creating great pain around them. More often than not, men will adopt this coping mechanism because they are head centered. When the individual is unable to stop feeling as a coping mechanism, they will most likely develop borderline personality disorder. This often translates into self-injury, self-hate, suicidal tendencies and emotional deregulation. Women who are more heart centered are most likely to develop this personality disorder. This personality type creates a lot of turmoil around them however they are creating a living hell for themselves more so than for anyone else.

Some of the descriptions of these personality types may appear extreme, however we should consider that each one of us demonstrates some of these traits depending on the amount of unresolved trauma we experienced. And you will always find shame at the core of each dysfunction. Skilled therapists are reluctant to use these labels (narcissist or borderline) because they know their clients will automatically feel shame as a result of being put into that box, which would make the therapy unproductive. These terms are only useful when used from the point of view of self-observation and accessing the wealth of knowledge and tools available around them. They are not useful as a shaming mechanism.

Today, I did an exercise where I listed all the things I am ashamed of. To my surprise, there was over one hundred items in this list! It felt like I was finally being authentic and it helped me release a very heavy emotional burden that I felt I have been carrying for a very long time. I am only sharing with you a few of them because I am too ashamed of the rest 😉

  • I am ashamed that I have been such a terrible father that my children have chosen not to have a relationship with me
  • I am ashamed that I am so unattuned that people sometimes see me as dangerous
  • I feel ashamed of my heavy French accent after 20 years in the US
  • I am ashamed that I trigger my significant other often
  • I feel ashamed that I am not valuable enough to my father that he decided not to go to my wedding with Teal

This exercise helped me so much that I would like to invite you to share your own shame list with all of us in the comments below. We should consider that most institutionalized religions and most social organizations are anchored in shame. I am finding that one of the fastest ways to advance on the path of liberation is to become consciously aware of your shame.

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Inducing altered states of consciousness to speed up evolution

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I never took drugs or spiritual medicine outside of a safe shamanic container. A good friend and roommate of mine first introduced me to medicine work when I was 26. At the time, I took LSD and it completely shattered my reality. It short cut my mind and gave me an insight into the truth of spiritual reality, love, consciousness, my own life and my ultimate purpose. What I especially loved about it is that it gave me a direct access to reality, what people call God or Source and the truth of who I am. Because of this experience, I developed a lot of respect for medicinal plants and would commonly recommend to seekers who feel stuck or who have minds that get on the way on their heart. Because many of these substances are illegal in the US, I found in my early thirties a completely safe and legal way to bring altered states of consciousness using holotropic breathwork. As a psychotherapist, Grof was involved in earlier tests on the therapeutic potential of LSD. When psychedelics were peremptorily banned in the 1960s, Grof developed holotropic breathing as a means of simulating the psychedelic experience of LSD without the drug itself. I found an excellent facilitator where I lived in San Francisco at the time: Todd Zimmerman. Todd taught one of our best workshop to date at Philia from March 11th to 18th 2017. While breathwork does not provide the psychedelic elements that you may found with substances, it does bring altered states of consciousness, visions into the subconscious, deep emotional release and inner journeying. Another benefit is that one is able to bring much more memory from the journey as this is a body centered experience.

After I started dating Teal, I decided not to do medicine work. First, she was not that comfortable with shamanic medicine because it is bringing very high intensity emotions and could prevent people from feeling fully day-to-day reality that now become dependent of substances to get a high. The cult that abused her used breathwork as a way to program her as well so she was not open to try it at the time. However, after she had a private breathwork session with Todd at Philia, she changed her mind completely on this practice and stated this was the single best healing modality I had introduced to her. From my perspective, the states of consciousness brought by these shamanic processes are just guides to show your potential and bring you back into alignment with your higher purpose. They give you a window into the actual emotional truth of where you stand in order for you to take adjustments or changes to live your life at a higher level. They are a sacred tool that should not be used for recreational purpose. And many who have not treated them with respect have been burned. I was comfortable stopping medicine work at the time too because I felt that Teal was acting as my medicine as she continued to shake my reality, not letting me believe my own lies and challenge my perception while our love story provided so much movement that any increased stimulation felt unnecessary.

After we decided the move to Costa Rica, I become very busy with all the logistics and ensuring that Philia would be a success from the get go. As a problem solver, I threw myself in this endeavor fully while I started to pay less attention to my relationship with Teal. Teal started to feel more and more uneasy. She started to express a lot of discontent that I could not understand. From my perspective, we were living on a magical property in beautiful Costa Rica, with our family and friends, starting a retreat center to heal people, a common dream we shared. Our relationship continued to deteriorate to a point that Teal & I started to feel hopeless. After almost two years, I felt I needed to go on a shamanic journey to get out of the dead end I found myself. We had received an application through Philia of a local Ayahuasca shaman so I invited him and his wife to meet with Teal & I. Teal instantly connected with him and felt guided to take this journey too but the shaman recommended that we do it on different days as some of our struggles related to our relationship. She had decided to go one day before. When she came back, she had difficulty walking, crashed with the intensity of everything she saw but relieved in many ways. We only had one hour together before I had to leave to my own journey. I remember her eyes full of love as she saw through her third eye what Ayahuasca would teach me by crashing me too. However, she was not allowed to share anything yet about her own experience and what would unfold for me.

Four other friends decided to join me for this Ayahuasca journey. For three of them, it was the first time taking it. It was only my second time. I had taken it previously 6 years ago with a Hispanic group and it had been a hard but very important learning experience. While I was the last one to take a cup of the sacred mixture early evening, I was the first to feel the effect of the sacred mixture and started to vomit only after a couple of minutes while it was only the first round even though I had fasted the last two days. The rest of the group took three turns and a friend even had four rounds and hardly felt anything. There is a saying that Ayahuasca always gives you what you need. Every person experience of Ayahuasca is unique. I started to purge heavily and hallucinate. My head was buzzing in an uncomfortable way. The surrounding shamanic music and the Costa Rica constant background of secators were being amplified to a state of discomfort. I was able not to go into panic, simply allowing the various fears to run their course while enduring the physical, emotional and mental pain of the experience. Teal had recommended me not to resist the place where Ayahuasca wanted to bring me. It took me two hours of torment & confusion to finally get to that place while the Shaman and his friend were attentive to all my needs while I was expressing distress as continued to purged. But when Ayahuasca came to finally take me, it hit me hard. An immense grief took possession of every cell of my body and I started sobbing uncontrollably. I saw my children. At that time, I had not seen them for a year (and it was at the court) and I have not talked to them for nine months as they refused to have any connection with me. Losing one’s children is probably one of most brutal experience one could ever experience. All this time, I had blocked the grief and the pain of this loss. I stayed in this grief space for about 14 hours simply feeling and sobbing. It was emotional painful however the release felt good too. I had told Teal & Mark (Teal’s ex husband) a week before that collapsing emotionally served no purpose. I realized that I was completely wrong as the crashing I was experiencing was healing me. I had so much grief accumulated in my body that I had become fully toxic to my extra sensory wife and I was more often than not choosing to dismiss her instead of acknowledging her distress or worse deflect my pain back to her. During the journey, I realized that at the same time I was grieving my children, my inner child was also grieving the fact that he did not have parents that were emotionally present to him. I was also grieving the fact that my personality had abandoned my inner child at a very early age that I had to be strong and to deal with childhood trauma on my own as I became a parentified child. I remembered myself not crying at all after the divorce of my parents when I was eleven, or my mother telling me that only me was capable of taking myself of the anxiety attacks I was susceptible as a young teenager. I remember learning to deal with my emotional pain alone because no one could be present with me during these times. I realized I had been abusing my inner child for over 40 years too. As is the case for development trauma, I gave myself the right to adopt new parents that could be fully present to my emotional needs. I saw clearly my coping mechanism to disconnect under pressure in order to do what I have to do. This state of disconnection had only increased Teal’s torment about our relationship. As this happened, the intentional community became more weary which increased the pressure on me and consequently on Teal which created a vicious circle. This vicious cycle was exacerbated as Teal’s outburst would make me shut down even further. I realized I needed more support from the team through a reliable management layer so that I could be the nurturing and attentive husband that my wife deserves. I saw my tendency to assume that something is wrong with her or try to fix her instead of acknowledging my responsibility in her distressed state. Regrets came through. I felt my lack of compassion towards her while holding her to very high personal behavioral standards that are not aligned to the extreme childhood traumas she endured. I also remember how Teal had shared with me so many words of wisdom or accurate explanation of what she and I were going through that I had completely dismissed. I saw clearly my resistance to her. As I suffered in the hands of a megalomaniac guru between 20 and 23 year old, I have used my logical mind as my safeguard and I have refused to take anyone on faith since. I have a need to understand to an extreme, and assume a position that other people are wrong unless they can prove me otherwise, which is a stress on relationships. I also saw my tendency to discount and dismiss other people. From four in the morning to noon, I continued to sob and experience my irrepressible grief. During that time, neither the shaman nor any of my friends came to support me. Because I was in an altered state of consciousness, I was as incapable as an infant to express the emotional need that I needed someone to hold my hand and to be present emotionally with me in this process. I had finally realized my need to feel supported and cherished by others instead of making it on my own, which I had done all my life. This time spent alone in my own torment seemed to feel like an eternity. I knew that I needed to have someone next to me and care for me to heal my development trauma to always do it on my own. Before that time, I did not really understand Teal’s words that the only way to heal from a development trauma is to meet the need that was not met in the first place. I had involuntarily inflicted a lot of pain on her through the trips to California I had to take from professional obligations last year not fully understanding her separation anxiety and not realizing that these separations were re-traumatizing to her as I thought she would simply get used to them as I felt I was doing the right and responsible thing. During these eight excruciable hours, I had to taste my own medicine and I had to deal with grief and isolation combined, and undergo the same ordeal that I had prescribed Teal a year ago. I stayed there for hours that seemed like months waiting to be liberated. While this was pure torture, I felt intuitively that this experience was brought to me so that I could feel her pain, which was one of the intentions I had set for this journey. All of my friends were done with their journey by early morning. They chatted, exchanged jokes and went for a nearby hike to a waterfall while I stayed suspended in limbo waiting, not knowing when I would be freed. Finally, around noon, the shaman came to me. I found the strength to make him understand that I need to feel his love and care as I finally get him to hold my hand. He gave me his unconditional presence but then start sharing with me some positive spiritual principles such as “there is only light and love”. This hurt me as I felt he did not see me or wanted to be with me in my pain. I start talking to him painfully to explain my need not to receive spiritual bypassing and I only wanted him to stay with me in my grief without trying to change or fix anything. I wanted to be loved unconditionally by him through his full presence, I wanted my deep sadness acknowledged, I wanted his empathy and compassion on how cruel the situation with my children had been. He got it. According the law of attraction, the painful reflection I am getting in my life is perfect but it is heartless and not conducive to healing when people reflect that high level abstract truth. Only a human perspective that is full of empathy, concern and compassion with all its raw emotions may bring healing. I only managed to start walking around 2 PM, about 20 hours after the start of the ceremony. The shaman brought me to walk into the river close to the property. He looked at me in the eyes and thanked me for the words I had shared with him. It really felt he brought a new understanding to support people even more deeply into their shamanic journeys. We looked at each other in the eyes and connected with profound love & respect. It is ironic that I managed to teach a Shaman a truth that I have been resisting so much to learn from Teal as my spiritual journey before her had been mostly about positive focus, spiritual bypassing and avoiding pain through filters and manipulating reality through my mind.

When I came back home, it felt good to be back and reconnecting with my beloved wife and share our mutual realizations from the journey. As I was now more aware that I have been disconnected, we decided that I should open to the community and ask for their help to provide their candid feedback if they find me insensitive so that I can be more aware of some of my coping mechanism to build a sincere desire for change. Unfortunately, it did not go as well as I expected. Eric shared his frustration that he is not yet in the place to help me because of accumulated resentment. The next morning, when we stopped by Graciela’s house, she announced that she is done with me that she is tired of getting hurt and does not want to support our relationship anymore without explaining what it meant in actual terms. Graciela’s face was marked with shock, anger and pain as she expressed her feelings. I was in disbelief not understanding how she could have built so much resentment and not even noticing it. This situation became unbearable for Teal as she was now put in the position to choose between her husband and best friend. Five members of the community spent the full day working on my difficult personality. I felt humiliated. This felt so unfair that everyone seemed to see that I was the only guilty one, but fault of another alternative I had to swallow to a full day of painful feedback, horrified by the picture held about me.

While I was hopeful that the Ayahuasca would heal Teal & I relationship, the opposite seemed to be happening. All the accumulated resentment built by the custody court case and my company transition that had translated into Teal’s worst possible nightmare were now all in the open and put considerable stress into our relationship. Over the next following days, some difficult arguments took place that made me feel more and more powerless, not really understanding the animosity towards me while I felt I did the best I could do every step of the way, always convinced I was doing the right thing.

Graciela had to withdraw for a couple of days from Teal & I to deal with the intensity of her emotions towards me. Graciela is a very conscious young woman fully committed to her personal development. Though it was clear my insensitivities and disconnection was a big part of the blow-up, she was able to acknowledge her own shadow and childhood traumas that I reflected back to her. She came to me with a pure and beautiful spirit of resolution. She had decided to come to me with an offering that will help me open my heart. Graciela is a woman working with Kambo and suggested she could help me through this modality to open my heart and let go of my protective narcissistic bubble. While my ego had resistance as I had to admit my own flaws, I know her ability and gift as a facilitator and decided to accept her present, especially that I was feeling again at a loss to create a beautiful relationship with the woman of my dreams. It would be a series a three sessions. Because of my schedule, we spread it out over a period of weeks.

The day before the first Kambo ceremony that I scheduled with Graciela, Teal was quite busy during the day and I was looking forward to reconnect with her in the evening. Unfortunately, when she came, Teal was very irritated towards me and I became the target of her anger and resentment. Our discussion went quickly downhill from there, so much that I asked her to practice silence together until we were able to express words that were conducive to resolution. Ten minutes of painful silence followed. Teal felt very resentful of two traumatic events that happened to us in 2016 when I had to make some difficult decisions that made her suffer though I stayed convinced this was the right decision. I started to explain to her the conundrum that I faced by using a simple example as the two other situations were too painful for a construction discussion. We brought a beautiful chime from Park City and Teal had hung it outside below our bedroom at Philia as it looked great there. Unfortunately, Costa Rica can have very windy nights and the chime would wake me up at night. I asked her if we could hang it somewhere else but she felt rightly so that was the best place for it. She suggested to tie it at night with a ribbon but I told it was unnecessary as I did not want to impose on her to do this every night as I felt she has way more important things to do. This example illustrated perfectly my coping strategy. I lived all my life as there is only two ways to deal with an unpleasant situation: you either cope by making the thing you do not like OK, or I change externally. Overtime, I managed to educate my willpower and endurance to such a degree that coping is typically my favorite option as I take the burden upon myself and do not need to create a conflict, however often at the expense of parts of myself. Also, to compensate for the fact that I can be more flexible on many small things, I developed a very strong core that is unmovable. Therefore, I would take sometimes a very strong stand and be extremely stubborn about it no matter what is the consequence to keep some form of identity. All of my life, I basically only gave myself two options. Either I cope by repressing my own needs and wants, or bulldoze my needs over others, which then forces me to cope to not care about the resentment of others. It never occurred to me before that there could be a third solution where I could consider a solution where both my needs and the other person needs would be addressed at the same time! It seemed obvious however it never occurred to me until that discussion with Teal. I suddenly realized how much damage this limited belief had done to my life and people close to me. That night, Teal actually put a ribbon around the chime and both of our needs were met easily. We practiced a role-play where we went back to the events where I imposed my needs over her, with this time the desire to consider both of us at the same time. To my surprise, this was actually possible but now it stopped building resentment and built trust instead as I actually showed genuine concern for her best interests. When a need conflict happens, the partners would need to express both of their needs and wants in a vulnerable way and start exploring out a solution together that could work for both. This may seem simple but I had never done this before. It was only either suppressing my needs or discounting the ones of others. It was always a lose-lose. Also, I realized that I used my spiritual practice all of my life to cope. I had become a master at filtering and altering reality, creating positive meaning to painful situations in order to feel better. This pattern runs in my family. My grandmother who is soon 101 year old is the happiest in her nursery home. She is surrounded by people who are dying, miserable and in pain most of the time and she only sees the positive. My father has no real relationship with his children, and a difficult marriage with heavy resentment but thinks his wife is too perfect. By being in denial, and making a painful and unacceptable situation OK, we actually make change impossible. Our filters will stop making reality painful, however unfortunately we then become enablers of very dysfunctional patterns and the repressed negative emotions find their reflection in the immediate environment. If a wife copes with the abuse of her husband, she accepts it and do not then try to change an ugly reality. By coping, adapting to our circumstances and to our world, we actually make things worse instead of better as we allow the dysfunction to continue. This intense realization had come just before the first Kambo ceremony just as the frog had started working on me.

I am now in front of Graciela before we start the Kambo ceremony. She asks me if I have an intention. Kambo is a hard process as the frog poison you absorb makes you vomit and purge in the most unpleasant ways. I call Kambo a mini Ayahuasca as it makes you purge in the same way but the journey lasts only one hour instead of a full night. These are medicines that are hard to get addicted to, as the purging is so unpleasant. I really did not feel at that moment to go through this experience again. I then looked at my present life and I realized the horror of my situation. The 3 people I love the most in this world resent me also the most also: my wife Teal and my 2 children from my previous marriage. I have had a disgruntled wife telling me she is not happy. I had the same situation in my previous marriage. I can feel the love nevertheless of Teal and my two children. I realize in this moment that I could not have dreamt of a more perfect wife. Even in my wildest dreams, I could not have wished for someone like Teal who is so spiritual, smart, beautiful, creative with a grand purpose. My children are also great kids: smart, gifted in so many ways with a big heart. At that moment, I decide to dedicate my Kambo session with Graciela to Love. I am doing this to bring back the flow of Love in my life for these 3 people. In this space, I can finally let go of my fear, take a leap of faith, as I have known for a long time that a life without Love is not worth living. Graciela now asks me to drink 1.5 liters of water. This is not easy and I feel bloated by the water. She then proceeds to burn my skin with a small wooden skin on my heart shakra where she decided to apply the Kambo. While unpleasant, this pain is nothing in comparison to the emotional pain I have just contemplated. She now spread the frog poison on my burns. After less than a minute, my heart starts beating intensely. I see the fear in some of my thoughts that my heart would stop beating. I let go of the resistance. I start vomiting, mostly water, as I fasted in the morning. It feels awful and deeply humbling as I keep purging. Fortunately, after only a couple of minutes, I vomit a core belief from my childhood called “Personne ne n’aime” which means “no one loves me”. It is hard to explain but it feels like this French sentence was physical and I actually spit out from my body at that time. I reflect and see the truth of this statement. I do not mean to put my parents under the bus as they did what they could with what they had. My father did not have parents until he was 10 year old and my mother lost her mum when she was 3 and she does not even remember any contact with her father. Because of their own family traumas, they simply could not give me what I was longing so much for, because they never received it in the first place: love, closeness and nurturing. The belief that “no one loves me” crystallized the harsh reality of how I was feeling as a child and stayed with me for almost the next 40 years. Core beliefs are so strong that your whole reality will actually get organized around them and create misery when it is a limited belief like this one. Following Teal’s core teaching, I stayed with the feeling, became fully present to my inner child holding this belief and validated him. I realized that even my external and worldly success was simply a coping mechanism for the fact I did not think I could be loved for who I was, and only performance could give me love. When I was six, my father gave me money as I brought back straight As from school. Therefore, I thought that if I were a good enough student, I would have love. At age 20, I passed the exam of one of the best school of France but crashed a couple of months after the admission when I realized that this accomplishment would not give me what I was so desperately looking without knowing: love. As a result, I joined a spiritual group, which ended up being a cult a couple of months later as I was desperately trying to find a way out of my emotional torment. I thought this spiritual group was everything I had always looked for. However, I left disillusioned 3 years later after realizing all the corruption and abuse orchestrated from the leader. I had been used and not loved. At 26, I entered a 15-year relationship & marriage, which brought two wonderful children in a course for status, success and money in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, when we mutually decided to part, I was ostracized by my ex wife and her parents and lost my children as a result. At that moment, I saw that my marriage had been more a contract based on mutual benefits than a relationship based on real love. In order for me to heal the child that believes that no one loves him, I need to give him what he truly wants: Love & Appreciation. Even at Philia, I had created a situation where team members would resent me because of my domineering attitudes that were focused on execution rather than connection. I also made it OK for people to resent me as long as they do their job. I have watched Teal do the opposite, something spending up to a full day to solve a problem with a person. I thought initially it was a complete waste of time not realizing she was working on alignment, and once people are fully aligned they will go the extra mile, be proactive and amaze you with the quality of their work. I made a commitment at that moment that it was not OK for me to be resented anymore. I had to stop this especially that our retreat center is based on connection. I felt I understood authenticity for the first time. I cannot be authentic by coping or imposing my needs above others. Instead, I need to focus on a third alternative that can only come through when I interiorize the other person needs. I saw the community too. I saw clearly in my medicine journey that one of our team members with responsibilities had been resentful towards me. To heal my inner child, I became apparent to me I had to stop making it OK for me to be resented. I put my life savings in this property and enormous efforts both for the move and property. I have not done that to get people to resent me. It felt very unfair. While I understood I created this situation to prove the belief “no one loves me”, I had to put a clear stop to this to start healing this destructive belief. I decided to meet with this person the same day. It did not matter anymore how long it would take to solve our difference and I made the commitment to live an environment where I am liked instead of feared. I can still be true to my own needs and their needs at the same time. I committed to do what it takes for people to like me. I have had the attitude that I do not care what people think about it as long as things get done.

Ten days have passed and it is now the time for the second Kambo with Graciela. The positions of the burns are typically intuitively felt by the shaman just before the ceremony. But the night before, I had woken up Teal by talking in my sleep saying very clearly “6 points in the palindrome”. While I did not this before, a palindrome is a word that reads the same backward and forward such as “madam”. While at breakfast, we felt intuitively that it is a message for the Kambo ceremony as “points” are another word for the burn marks used to absorb the frog medicine. Graciela does a Google and tells us that “eye” is the only body part that is a palindrome. This discovery triggers me. After I started dating Teal, I had told her I did not need to take Kambo because she was my medicine. While this is true, the other reason I did not want to do Kambo because it makes marks on the body and all my life, I have been uncomfortable with anything that alters the original nature of the body. Now, they are talking about a burning stick in the eye! Teal asked me to think what it would really mean. I feel intuitively that it must be the third eye however I am thinking that the last thing I want to do is to have burn marks on my forehead especially that I am an important upcoming business meeting in the US. I start to complaint, revolt and state clearly that I do not want to do it. Teal looks at it and she starts experiencing genuine sadness and she shed a couple of tears. She said “How ironic” as, in the same token, I would rather look good than love her. Over the last previous days, we had a couple of arguments where I deflected my shame into her and made her feel like the one with problems while I was actually the one creating the trigger in the first place. During these times, I had chosen to defend my self-concept and look good instead of seeing the truth. I started to feel her pain, disappointment and sadness about me. At that moment, I remember the time where I would have given everything just for the opportunity to have a date with her. I reminded myself of my commitment to remove any wall that stands between me and her, and my promise to her that as long as I can breath, I will always choose to love her. Her Love had defeated me and I accepted reluctantly to get Kambo from my forehead as I reminded myself that my relationship with her is to me so much more important than looking good. I started thinking about wearing a hat, or put my hair in front of the marks to get more comfortable about the idea and get into acceptance with this higher guidance. She re-assures me that she can make them look good. An hour later, I am laying down ready for the application of Kambo, I remind myself of my intention “I want to see” focusing on my 3rd eye chakra. Six burns are applied on my forehead. Shortly after, I experience a faster heartbeat, and I start to emit some tones to clear energy in my throat chakra that is between my heart and third eye. The medicine takes much more time to work on me than the previous session. It took at least ten minutes before the need to purge. Teal is in the room typing on her computer writing her next Ask Teal episode. I reach out to her in a vulnerable to stop doing it, as I really need her undivided attention. This is ironic too as I am typically the one absorbed on my computer tuning other people out. A vision starts coming through. My consciousness becomes Teal as a child on a table. I am in the process of being tortured by Doc. He shows absolutely no empathy like he is working on a robot. I experience unbearable pain. On the other side of Doc comes the spirit of Teal’s mother. She does not see Teal’s pain and push it back onto her not understanding why her daughter is acting so uncontrollably and wondering what is wrong with her. She gets angry with her. Back on the table, I feel like I am made to swallow my own vomit. I am in pain as I purge but I realize suddenly that I am so lucky that I am able to scream or vomit. It feels like such a good release and I receive the loving attention of both Teal and Graciela in the room. When Teal was tortured, she did not have the luxury of any form of release. Doc would put something in her mouth to prevent her from screaming. The torture experienced felt so much more horrific when there is not even a possibility to release and to witness the complete emotional disconnection from Doc. I am now transported into a different mindscape that I see is connected to a vision I had 5 years previously during a breathwork facilitated by Todd Zimmerman (Todd came to Philia from March 11th to 18th 2017). At that time, five years ago, one of the women breathing in the room was reliving a rape she had experienced as a teenager. She yelled from such a profound part of her being that it started to affect me and I relived intuitively a sensation of a past life where I was a father where my father got raped and I made it worse through my own behavior. Now, under Kambo, what was an alluring feeling 5 years ago during that breathwork session appears as a very clear past life in high definition. We are back in time and I am a spiritual teacher in India with an important following. I am a scholar, I hold an impressive spiritual knowledge of the scriptures. I think I know everything, and I have always a response to any of my followers’ questions. My ego is huge and I am full of myself. I am respected and feared, and some of my domineering and inflexible attitudes create antagonism too. Through unfortunate circumstances, my only daughter gets raped by some of my enemies as they try to hurt me through her. I see myself being furious at my daughter telling her how she brought ridicule and dishonor onto our family and my reputation. I shun her and punish her. I make it all her fault. Because of my hardness, cold and cruel behavior, she commits suicide and dies. When my followers inquiry about this tragic event, I tell them with utter certainty as someone believing his own lies, that a life had come where she would awaken so she decided to take the opportunity and exit her body. Deep down, I know I am the one responsible for the death of my only daughter because I kept spreading shame on her open wound. During that life, I never let myself experience consciously the responsibility for her death. From that point on, I went downhill and created a lot of damage among my followers. I see how my cult experience in this life was a direct consequence of this karma. I see clearly who is the reincarnation of my daughter in this life. I experience sincere regrets towards this person and I got to better understand her antagonistic behavior towards me that never seemed to make sense. I experience a desire to make it better, and can now more easily let go of her behavior that I judged as unfair. I understand that lack of empathy is the most dangerous thing of the world. If every one of us could feel each other pain, the world would be so different. Family quarrels, work oppression, crime, wars would end immediately. I decide to make a total commitment to allow myself to feel. I realize that I used the tools of self-development and spirituality to make myself comfortable and avoid pain no matter what are the circumstances and I became a “master coper” as a result. I now consciously choose to feel in full awareness even if it involves pain in order to become fully alive.

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