The Invisible Community (The Life & Loves of a Failed Misanthrope # 7)

In January, I participated in a trauma-healing workshop for men on Seabird Island, twenty miles outside Hope. It was run by Charis Lynn, free of charge (by donation). Though it went on five days, I was only able to attend the first day. Nonetheless it was a day to remember.

It was a small group, Charis, myself, and three other men, not counting two small children who came and went throughout the day. Despite the chaotic environment, it was intimate and relaxed. Charis does a variation of Systemic Family Constellations, an alternative therapeutic method which draws on elements of family systems therapy, existential phenomenology, and, of all things, Zulu tradition! Systemic Family Constellations work aims to reveal, in a single session, unrecognized family dynamics that span multiple generations, and to dissolve negative ancestral patterns by interacting with representatives of the past, thereby accepting the factual reality of one’s circumstances.

The workshop took place in the garage of a house belonging to one of the participants, Skiatt, a father of four, of Native American and Irish-Scottish ancestry. The walls of the garage were covered with posters of superheroes. This probably helped me feel at home, since I grew up on Marvel comics, and before the workshop began, I chatted with Skiatt about superheroes and the all-American propaganda of individualism. At one point, I pointed out the irony of my ending up in that garage, working on ancestral traumas with Native people: I am a Brit relocated to British Columbia, which is Native American land colonized by my ancestors (close enough anyway; my ancestry is almost entirely Anglo-Saxon, though there is probably some Celtic blood in there.)

Where there is irony, there is also poetry, and trauma unites us all. This is especially true if we consider how the inflicting of trauma traumatizes those who inflict it, and that some of the worst PTSD sufferers are war veterans who are not victims but perpetrators of terrible acts.

What I noticed very quickly in that garage space was how comfortable I felt surrounded by strangers. The reason was not a common interest in superheroes but a shared acknowledgment of the impact of trauma on our lives. I realized that there is something inherently more real, more trustworthy, about people who recognize, and are willing to expose, their woundedness. It allows for a baseline of humility that may even be true of Native Americans in general—who are certainly among the most systematically traumatized of peoples.

Working in the New2Yew thrift store, I see trauma victims daily, hourly, minute-by-minute. What I don’t see is people acknowledging how trauma impacts us at the deepest possible level—all the way into our cells. When it occurs early in life, it forges our identities, like swords in a furnace. All our fears, hopes, desires, interests, aversions, habits and routines, how we speak, think, and feel, how we interact with one another (and even with inanimate objects), are shaped—or at least colored—by these formative experiences. Yet they are experiences we rarely think or talk about—assuming we even remember them, and there are invariably early experiences of trauma we don’t remember, even if it’s only the trauma of our birth.

In my own case, due to my mother’s alcoholism and some irresponsible medical advice, my birth was considerably more traumatic than it needed to be. Even my conception was indubitably toxic, the result of drunken consummation. For me, there is no state of trauma-free oneness to get back to, no point in my existence that wasn’t already polluted, unless it is the oneness of God, and by God I mean what we all originally and ultimately are, the source and essence of our collective being. 

To the degree our identities are formed as a defense against or retreat from trauma, many if not all of our personal orientations are also directed towards conflict and avoidance—just as a sword is oriented towards war. Many of us live and die by this sword of a trauma-generated self. There is a seething swamp of dread, anxiety, sadness, and rage bubbling beneath the surface of our lives, making our every interaction geared towards concealing that quagmire of unprocessed grief. Our behaviors are rife with dissembling, pretending, posturing, whatever keeps us “safe,” while at the same time making our interactions like minefields that prevent real connection from happening.

Trauma victims are spies who never come in from the cold.

In contrast, sitting there in that garage, very much out of my element and outside my comfort zone, yet surrounded by people united by a shared need to acknowledge, express, and heal their trauma, there was connection. It was like the difference between oil and water, love and war, reality TV and flesh and blood living.

Before attending, I assumed, since it was free, that it must be funded by government or other charities. But Charis told me there was no funding for the workshop-retreat. What was more, no one involved had done it before. She explained that, if trauma-afflicted people sit around waiting to get their act together before doing something to help other trauma-afflicted people, nothing will ever happen. So they had just done it. The only way to map new ground is to enter the unknown without a map. In that regard, I was in my element. In this swampland of trauma-denial, finding the ground always entails breaking new ground.

By working with Charis, it occurred to me that, if we rely on government or other charity programs to do it for us, we will be left to languish in a kind of Stockholm limbo, waiting for the agents of our abuse to rescue us. Who but the traumatized can help the traumatized? Who knows what they are dealing with better than people who have learned to function in the world despite their trauma ~ not by pushing it down into unconsciousness but by bringing it back into awareness, one damaged cell at a time?

By coming together to heal, traumatized people help each other simply by virtue of a shared willingness to do so. Leading by example means that movements happen without followers or leaders, merely when enough of us begin moving forward visibly. It means willingness to be, not just visible but vulnerable, exposed, raw, unguarded, and honest, no matter the discomfort. It means having no focus, interest, or goal besides that of becoming whole.

If we were all natives once, now we are all (more or less) equally displaced; we have all been torn from the womb of peaceful community existence—a time and place beyond anyone’s memory— just as we were once unceremoniously torn from our mother’s womb. Perhaps, as we heal the wounds in ourselves, we also heal the wounds that come between us, the fractures in the human community? I don’t think there is any other way.

How do we dissolve the barriers that come between us? Perhaps more importantly, why would we want to? If we can only participate in a healthy, loving community by healing the fractures within our own psyches, the reverse is also true: loving community only comes about when we, as individuals, heal our own interior spaces; when we bring our cells, organs, muscles, bones, and all the warring aspects of our souls into harmonious communication—loving community—within us. As within, so without.

All this is hard to write, but even so I know it is a whole lot easier said than done. When I was in my early twenties, I read Dostoyevsky (he was my father’s favorite writer). Dostoyevsky defined Hell as “the suffering that comes from an incapacity to love.” It took me thirty more years to begin to extrapolate, via direct experience, that, by this same definition (which I never doubted the truth of) heaven (enlightenment) depends wholly upon an increase of our capacity to love.

Since no one can force themselves to love (and will only become monstrous if they try), what that leaves is letting go of everything that prevents us from loving. We start from a place of deficiency, bankruptcy. It feels like Hell, and it is. But what counts is not how deficient we are, what counts is how honest and open we are about our deficiency. To let our lameness show is an act of love and trust, and with it, a deficiency becomes a power.

Art by Stephen Greene

I think, based on years of doing it, that being willing to be seen in all of our hidden, shadowy aspects not only protects us but also empowers us. Not in some superheroic way, but in a peculiar way that makes us smaller, softer, meeker, and tenderer, rather than bigger, stronger, harder, and tougher.

The power of vulnerability is that it invokes and invites vulnerability in others, because it signals that we are not a threat (we are vulnerable), while at the same time indicating that we are not afraid (we are vulnerable by choice). By showing vulnerability, we signal to the world that there is nothing it can do to threaten us, while at the same time—and by the same token—we communicate that we do not present a threat to it. Like you-know-who when he got up on the you-know-what.

By showing we don’t need to have control over how others perceive us, we show the world that it has no power over us. And because only total vulnerability allows for the fullness of our capacity to love and receive love, it is actually the most enticing, inviting thing there is in all existence, as well as the scariest. It is how the power of love conquers the love of power. And who doesn’t want that for themselves?

For most of my adult life, I have had a deeply felt intuition about the truth behind the word “God”—that there is an inherently benevolent but invisible power guiding and shaping our existence. I have never, until recently, been able to feel the same about human beings. Yet little by little, in a community called Hope, I am starting to feel that there is an inherently benevolent but invisible community which we are all part of, if only we can know it, and show it.

It is not easy. It is happening one cell at a time.

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24 thoughts on “The Invisible Community (The Life & Loves of a Failed Misanthrope # 7)”

  1. Your trauma, as you call it, Jasun, was invisible and unheard in that it happened to you so young, maybe in the womb and in the passage into this world. You don’t have a picture or memory of it and you don’t know what was said to you during the trauma and even perhaps as a child. This is why it is so difficult to heal.

    We had what they call an ACE, acute childhood experience, at age two as two emotional healers told me, but having no memory of it the only thing it answered was perhaps why I was so detached emotionally from people . The books of Krishnamurti helped me as I understood how the watcher can become the watched and as I listened to the thoughts in my own mind, but I didn’t heal until “God” came and gave me a memory of it, a rape by my father at age two to shut me up so my mother would have some peace. We cried for we were constantly in pain. We didn’t want to believe it but he was a brutal kind of man, but what was telling and which explained much in my life was what God told me he said when he “raped” me, “You are so ugly, little one, no one could love you.” It is so often the words our souls hear which destroy us. They were probably damaged, too, my parents, and we have long ago forgiven them for their sins, and rape is a sin in that it is committing adultery, both physically and mentally and emotionally.

    My point is, God can heal us if we walk and talk with Him, and listen, for He has many ways of communicating with us, through dreams, intuitions, “knowings”, and even the still, small voice. He can also work with your body to heal you empathetically through the mind. He cured my late husbands cancer for a period of 15 years so he could raise his two sons. However, his ACe which occurred at age 5 and of which he had no memory, could not be healed even by God, and it continued to haunt him with extreme fear and helplessness. We assume he was abducted and his memory erased, as many UFO abductees have reported. A number of other men who have succumbed to prostate troubles also found themselves in complete helplessness situations.

    • Jennifer, I am so glad you found healing in Christ for your wounds. I too was in a similar place as you, abducted, beaten, tortured and raped. Life is good now. Blessings

      • At what age, Jnia? Almost seems having a memory of it would be worse. Yes, the Christ comes with “healing in His wings.”

      • We really don’t know but it happened when his father, a scientist, moved his family to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to work in the secret government labs there. Dan was five at the time and one morning he woke up fearful and withdrawn, when he had been a happy young child. His mother showed me a letter from the psychiatrist they took him to, but she could find no reason for the change.

        They discovered later his blood type changed, his eye color, and an x-ray of his neck showed the vertebrae had been shattered but had some how healed. One morning he woke up with white streaks in his hair, so that he thought they had abducted him more than once and into his teen years.

        Who really knows what US government is connected with, but Delamer Duverus says there is a “hive part of our nation” and we think it is underground installations through the mountains, Rockies, even up through Wyoming for UFO craft have been sighted there, too. The Mormons may have had connections with Aliens, also, but can’t find the article presently. UFO community abductees all have stories of missing time, pregnancies which come and go, etc. We just assume.

        • Hello Jennifer. I don’t know if you have explored this possibility, but there are rare documented cases of viral infections causing a person’s blood type to change, and also a person’s eye colour, though I haven’t found another example of both happening to the same person. For example:


          Clearly something made your husband very ill.

          • Hello, Martin. Had never heard of this viral infection altering blood type and eye color, though have heard that eye color can change with the influx of toxins into the body, which may be what happened. He was, however, not ill from changes, but would go into deep depressions for days until he could pull himself out of it, mostly fear. Thanks for link to article. When flush will check it out.

          • I was imagining that your husband may have experienced some degree of ‘missing time’ in his memory, and therefore that his ‘illness’, such as it was, may taken place during this time. The body-memory of this unremembered experience would then be expressed by his physical changes and his depression.

  2. Hey Jasun, this is actually a reply to our recent brief exchange. Man I’m looking forward to reading your new book and will definitely shoot you some thoughts on it when I do. The title alone speaks volumes to me already. I’ve had it on my radar probably since you first announced it and then I lost track of it’s release date. Not sure when I’ll get a copy as I’ve not been acquiring as many books in recent months as is usual for me. I did get a copy of Prisoner when it dropped. Have not read it apart from skimming it to see what kind of expansion/revisions we’re done.

    We’ve had our little disagreements (Crowley for example) but I still think you’re hitting a lot of nails right on their heads. I’ve had some health issues in the last couple of years which set me off, kind of like you’ve been doing, re-examining my own family background which has led me down some strange rabbit holes. So I’ve been thinking more on it and some time this year, when I have an actual computer again, I’d be open for a follow-up talk. I’ll keep you posted.

    • I’m looking forward to reading your new book and will definitely shoot you some thoughts on it when I do.

      I look forward to that, too. POI has some new material but overall it’s a very different experience than the series of blogposts, I think. The medium is the message, after all.

  3. Yeah i guess the thing to watch out for there is that if all the participants ade wounded and attempting to self diagnose and heal, then you could sim,y gravitate to some folks that fit your own unholy profile, populating your own little corner of hell, and the unlucky may even find themselves being unwittingly forced to swallow someone elses sin.

    Great artwork, who is it by ? As in, who birthed it ?

  4. Nice ending here calling to mind the analogy early in Vice of Kings about the blood cell moving through the body.

    “.. to dissolve negative ancestral patterns by interacting with representatives of the past ..”

    Interesting. Since you guys chatted about Kevin Spacey/House of Cards a few weeks ago I’ve been watching it for the first time. Kevin Spacey/Frank Underwood actually does this “technique” of interacting with a representative of the past, albeit unintentionally at first. He seemingly (I haven’t finished the series) bungles it and reenacts the traumas instead.

  5. Everywhere I turn, this message – this truth is flooding my awareness. I am so grateful to be alive at this very moment…opening to healing, allowing myself to embrace the raw, vulnerable and almost overwhelming beauty of this process. Thank you for demonstrating precisely what is required. Thank you.

    • I’m willing to take a chance and try to articulate what i don’t feel ready to articulate on the (partial) understanding that one never does feel ready to be vulnerable coz if one did it wouldn’t be a show of vulnerability.

  6. “No more pretending for him! He was completely and openly a mess. Meanwhile the rest of us go on trying to fool each other.”

    Denis Johnson “Jesus Son”

  7. Healing, and the value of the wounded healer. Many years ago I read a book called that, ‘The Wounded Healer.” It was a motivating factor for me to enter the arena of the healer. I had often thought that I was far too disabled by my wounds to be of any use to anyone. Wrong! Instead, we are rather uniquely positioned in the life of those around every corner who desperately seek even a small degree of health.
    I appreciate both your candor and personal insight. You are well on your way.

  8. Jasun, are you acquainted with this man’s work? He is an ally.

    “The theory of positive disintegration (TPD) by Kazimierz Dąbrowski (1902-1980) is a theory of personality development”:

    Dabrowski’s ideas are hard-won, immediately illuminating, and deeply encouraging, so it’s no wonder he has remained obscure and marginal throughout the four decades since his death. I think his work is highly relevant to your ongoing project here. (His book titles include Positive Disintegration and Psychoneurosis Is Not An Illness, which will give you some idea. See also his comments on “Overexcitability” and much else besides.) I’m currently halfway through watching six hours of interviews he conducted with graduate students of psychology in Canada in about 1970. Though he struggles at times with English (his fifth or sixth language) he is never less than fascinating and he has the kind of sane presence that cannot be faked.

  9. “For most of my adult life, I have had a deeply felt intuition about the truth behind the word “God”—that there is an inherently benevolent but invisible power guiding and shaping our existence. I have never, until recently, been able to feel the same about human beings. Yet little by little, in a community called Hope, I am starting to feel that there is an inherently benevolent but invisible community which we are all part of, if only we can know it, and show it.”

    The discovery of the ether – or the Higgs field (as it is now understood) – is more or less the discovery of the core of the self – the path of least resistance (and least action). This intuition you have is more or less a sense of the higher or ideal symmetry – the very core of what our reflective minds emerge from.

    The ouroboros is the right idea i.e. the circle, but the serpent symbolism is implicitly traumatological i.e. reptilian brainstem. It is from the higher parts of our brain that our ‘teleodynamism’ emerges, and so, if we are not being governed from there – or the perspicacious and nuanced capacities of reflective mind – than we are being governed from the bottom-up i.e. by the conservative and reflexive logic of the brainstem (reflexive being ‘economical’, even though reflection is involved in achieving higher degrees of regulation between self and other).

    In any case, the circle begins in a simple singularity of love (the Higgs), which is a pure-potentiality; then, creation unfolds, and the material self-organizes through symmetry dynamics. Earth is formed; life emerges, and the regulation of the circular dynamics of life passes-through a field of situations which scaffolds higher degrees of awareness/structure. Robert Ulanowicz (an ecologist) calls this ‘ascendance’, which it clearly is in our case.

    As we generate a self-conscious mind, in being entrained and synchronized with other bodies, we can begin to think – as we all do in this culture – that our minds are “ours”, and that our feelings reflect “essential truths” about what we are. So removed from an awareness of the ontological primacy of process – of change between objects – we fail to recognize the chain of causes that become “platforms” for higher level effects: chemistry is embedded in cellular life; cellular life ’emerges’ from the capabilities of proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, etc. Feeling ‘arises’ from the dynamisms of the cell after the integrative and synthetic capacities of the neuron arise. From a long evolution of the neuron comes behavior; a proto-typical animal with a sensory system and a motor system where ‘feeling’ arises. And then from the feeling system – which emerges clockwork from object-relations – comes a mind which thinks ABOUT the world. This ‘aboutness’ is now a mental level of relation; yet its content is implicit in the feeling-ecology, which is implicit in the cell-ecology, which is implicit in the regulation of biochemical dynamics.

    Trauma gets people to forget about the world, and focus entirely on the ‘aboutness’ of things. Over the years, I have come to realize that reality is perfect; and fixing ourselves is about recognizing how perfectly constructed we are, only to be distorted by a corrupt social, cultural and political dynamic that prevents us from enacting/experiencing our intrinsic connectedness.

    Why feel shame? Shame is there as negative feedback for bad behavior. It enforces goodness by making us aware of the wrongness of doing to another what we wouldn’t want do to us. I am implicitly dyadic, and hence, I am concerned, and via empathic resonance (mirror neurons) I identify with the hurting-other. Shame carries the implicit meaning of the meaning of your action on the other. It emerges because we know – or have learned (or had marked) within our own experience the significance of a mean face, or a mean voice. We know from our own experience what this feels like; ergo, we are constrained by our own affective-awareness to embody/simulate the experience in others. This is the basis of a psychological co-being with others that can be severely constrained if the cultural narratives do not support the ability to communicate emotions like shame.

    Similarly, pride comes from being positively experienced. We get a ‘jolt’ of energy by receiving the feedback we get from other faces after we act, yet somehow we are able to overlook this ontological fact and come to synthesize selves that cultivate intentions that are competitive/envious/hateful towards others. We all do this; blindly, our feelings are consequences of behaviors; and our feelings, being powerful regulatory dynamics, can only be worn down with understanding – first at an implicit, affective relational level, and then at a cognitive-reflective level. The damaged person cannot reflect: he doesn’t feel safe enough. His own actions and the logic of why they exist ‘surround’ his awareness like a shell, and so he must peel away the nature of these affects/cognitions to understand what is really happening.


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