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Some pieces coming together

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Jun. 29th, 2012 | 01:33 pm

As I reflect back on the experience of having the astrology teacher and class look at my natal chart a couple of weeks ago, I can see how I have been able to use that as a point of departure for further exploration of issues with which I've been dealing for a while.

I've already mentioned how the astrology teacher appears to base his metaphysics on the work of some New Thought teachers whose work seems dubious at best. Nonetheless, there was a little bit of discussion during the last class about ways in which he has adapted that work to his own teaching and practice, and this helped me to be a little less suspicious of where he was coming from.

On the other hand, I remain vigilant about anything that seems to bypass deep feeling, because that's where I believe lasting transformation happens (if indeed, it ever happens at all for some issues). I also remain vigilant for expressions of moralism: "Don't you think you're making too much of this? Don't you think you're holding on to this pain too long?," etc.

As a counter to the limitations (and potential harmfulness) of those sorts of attitudes, I have continued reading about abuses of power in spiritual groups. This past week, this brought me to the Leaving Siddha Yoga website, where I found an article by an ex-Siddha Yoga member and psychoanalytical therapist on traumatic abuse in cults: http://danielshawlcsw.com/traumabusecults.pdf I also found his article on working with clients who have been raised by narcissistic parents to be useful: http://danielshawlcsw.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Enter_Ghosts.80132935.pdf What I found useful about this article was the way in which he described a situation in which he inadvertently pushed a client's buttons, who then pushed his buttons back in a way that nearly sent them both spiralling out of control into sadomasochistic rounds of projected and introjected shaming. He portrays this as a compulsive, nearly mechanical set of actions and reactions. He got out of it by explaining more clearly where he was coming from, including owning up to being less than perfect.

In reading that article, I was able to see how academia is rife with opportunities for these kinds of things to happen. What I came away with is that it is not usually very useful to try to dispense with any shame that gets stirred up by flinging it back at the offending party--nor is it very useful to invoke the New Age idea that "what other people think of me is none of my business"--but rather to see the discomfort of the situation as a reminder that my support system has faltered, and to consider what I might be able to do to begin to rebuild it.

In academia, crticisms are often delivered in writing and may or may not be anonymous. Either way, there is usually little to no recourse for the one who is the target of the criticism to respond directly or to enter into a dialog about the conditions that led to the criticism in the first place. It seems to be expected that the "professional" thing to do is to just "take it," to undertake a program of self-improvement, and to get on with one's life. When there is personal intervention in a dispute, it is usually conducted under conditions of official secrecy (supplemented by unofficial gossip) and is delivered in an extremely patronizing manner. If the target is more stubborn than not, procedures such as union grievances and lawsuits may be pursued.

Stepping back from these supposedly "necessary" and incontravertible procedures, I can see how they replicate the conditions under which traumatic abuse occurs. Particularly for people whose inner sense of support has been eroded (or never had a chance to develop) because of the cumulative effects of incidents of traumatic shame, it can set up conditions of progressive retreat such as what I have been experiencing.

It is true that people are gonna do what people are gonna do, and I can't control that directly. But that doesn't mean that red flags should be ignored if they indicate that my ability to cope with some of these kinds of situations has been wearing thin. To have students, two years in a row, express the opinion that my contempt for my experience of the student-teacher dynamics in the department is becoming more transparent is something I may want to consider.

My experiences of shame, rejection, and abandonment have seemed to accumulate rapidly within the past few years, including experiences of abandonment due to the illness and/or deaths of family members and colleagues. Yes, there may be stresses and strains in life; yes, people who have consciously undertaken a spiritual path should expect to be confronted with their "issues"; but merely going on without finding means of restoring one's vital energies and contact with one's core sense of values is probably not a good idea.

This is why, in my recent survey of where I've been and where I'm at, a theme that is emerging is how to achieve some palpable sense of regeneration. I'm finding some potentially useful suggestions in Rudrananda's Spiritual Cannibalism, and resuming my reading of some of the writings of Rudhyar is helping as well. Of course, one generally feels more in control of one's pace of life during the summer than during the academic year, but if I succeed in getting somewhat back on track this summer, some of the positive effects of that may carry over into the academic year.


Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,

okm

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