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Friday, September 23, 2011

It's all connected - Part 2


For the past two years I’ve been attending a monthly class on energy fundamentals. The class has helped me in so many ways to be a better person and a better energy-work practitioner. As an extension of that class, in March I become a member of the “Men’s Group” which is comprised of men who have been through the first two years of the energy class. This is a working support group which provides us with a safe space to talk about the changes that the energy class is making in our lives. The group is currently comprised of 13 men, 4 of which are gay and the other 9 are straight.

In July thanks to the beautiful weather we were having, we had decided to meet in Volunteer Park and have a small pot-luck cookout. For those that aren’t familiar with it, Volunteer Park is what the gays in Seattle think of as the “gay park”. It’s in the Capitol Hill (gay neighborhood) area and is where many “Gay Pride” events are held. On the day of the meeting, I went shopping for my pot-luck food as was actually quite excited about the meeting because it was sunny, I was in a good mood, I enjoy the group and picnicking (which I love) was involved.

I was the first to arrive so as I waited for the others I sat basking in the afternoon sun and enjoying the fresh air. As more and more men arrived I noticed that my joyous mood had shifted to something more subdued. I even felt myself beginning to withdraw from socializing with the other men but chose to ignore it and press on into the gathering. Once we began there was one other gay guy present and the other 7 men were straight guys.


CHECKING IN

As with any support group, we begin with a “check in” where we discuss whatever is going on in our lives so that we can get support from the group as needed. I was about half-way around the circle from where we started with the check-ins so I had about 6 guys ahead of me. I remember the first person had barely gotten into his check-in and all I could think about was “when will this end so I can get out of here?”

I began thinking about what might be going on that was making me not want to be a part of something that earlier I was excited about. I concluded that the guys were going to take too long to check-in (they do it every month) and because of the cookout that we wouldn’t have time to get to the discussion that we usually have or to do any energy exercises, which is my favorite part of the gathering, and that THAT was what was annoying me. My intransigence was stacking the deck against me.

As I listened to the guys sharing their stories, I began thinking about what was going on for me that I would share. The main drama which had arisen in my life was around the Facebook posting that my childhood friend had made which set me off. By the time it got to me to check-in, almost an hour had passed due to the lengthy check-ins and I was more than annoyed and my response was to withdraw and share the minimum I could so that things would move along. Literally my check-in was “Not much is happening really. I’m good.” After all, why would all these straight guys care about my “big gay drama”?


NOT THE DISH I ORDERED

After the check-ins ended, we began the cookout. While things were being grilled and prepped, I sat there stewing in my pot of anger and completely withdrawn yet trying to put on a happy face to hide it all. One of the guys came over to check on me. “Is everything okay? You seem so withdrawn and quiet.” I gave him the response that most of us give when we don’t want to own what is going on inside or share it, “I’m FINE.” (Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional)  Several other guys tried to make conversation with me but I wasn’t in the mood to engage them either so my response to them was equally short.

As soon as everyone had their food off the grill (which I had brought so I had to stick around), I made a hasty retreat and actually left without saying goodbye to most of the guys. Everything in me was saying “RUN” and so I did. I spent the entire drive home trying to figure out what had really set me off and trying to decide if I really wanted to be a part of the group any longer.


TRACK IT DOWN

When I got home where it was quiet, I was able to sit down, relax and try to track my experience back to the point where I shifted from excited to withdrawn. I remembered that I was good until the first two guys arrived. They arrived together and one of them was what I think of as the Alpha Male of the group. He’s not in charge of the group but because his work and life are about him being in charge of lots of people (big family and small business owner) he tends to want to run the show anyway. He is also the group member which I feel most nervous around.

When they approached, I remember thinking “you don’t know these guys very well so don’t be overly affectionate so just smile, shake hands and say hello” and so I did while remaining seated. As other guys arrived since they were standing, they would greet and hug each other while I sat and took it in, withdrawing further and further and feeling more and more like an outsider. I had found my “breaking point”. The question was why did guys showing up and greeting each other set me off?

The answer was of course right there in my response to them and their arrival. It has been my historical observation that straight men are uncomfortable with hugs and emotional greetings from other men but especially from gay men. Therefore, over the years my “default setting” has become “do not greet straight men very affectionately and keep an emotional distance”. It’s been that way for so long now that I don’t even really think about it, it just happens. I feel safer because I believe they feel more comfortable around me.

So there I sat watching the group unite and bond one by one, with me consciously choosing to stay on the outside where I thought it was safe and yet resenting feeling left out. My default setting was the source of my isolation and it was so instinctual and automatic that I didn’t even notice it. It becomes very challenging for a support group to support you when you won’t engage with it and allow it to support you. The energy held by group gathered for a specific purpose is more powerful than the amount of energy which can be held by the individual members.  It is known as “emergence”  and allows each group member to benefit from this higher vibration of energy.


PERSONAL DEFAULT SETTINGS

Of course I’ve only come to realize most of this as I’ve been creating this blog entry and thus one of the reasons for my delay in getting it created. Major resistance has shown up at every turn and mostly all self-induced. I spent time in the days after the gathering trying to trace things back to the point where I felt things went awry so that I could begin to understand what happened. I knew that I did not feel safe in the group and shared this with them in an email after the gathering but I also made it clear that it was an unconscious fear because consciously I knew that these men meant me no harm.

The part of me that didn’t feel safe was my inner little gay boy who had been taunted and teased all through my childhood by the bullies that I went to school with. I have processed all of that consciously and learned that their actions had everything to do with them and nothing to do with me. I have forgiven them for their cruelty and myself for taking on their hatred and hating myself and them because of it. I have done all the things I needed to do to move on with my life but still my default setting was to keep a distance physically and emotionally with a group of straight men.

That default setting has now become problematic. I don’t need that emotional distance any longer because now I have the skills to manage the emotional landscape within me. By using “The Basics” I can now create and hold space for myself, determine what is mine and what is not mine, define my boundaries and be fully present to life as it occurs moment by moment. The task then becomes to find these old wounded places within me and heal them. Being present and aware will help me notice them. Bringing my consciousness to the issues with an intention to change them will enable me to transform the issues.


JOURNALING TO THE RESCUE

I’m a big fan to advising others to journal when something is going on for them. It seems in this case that was good advice for me as well. It really is amazing how much is revealed just by opening up and listening to all the messages that surface and seeing your thoughts written out where you have to look at them. Now they aren’t just idle thoughts which pass through your head but something that you have to look at and say “Is that really true for me?”  “Do I want it to be?”  The answer to those questions will open a path to healing.


INTERCONNECTIVITY

One of the other points that I’d like to emphasize by sharing this entry and the preceding one is the importance of seeing connections between events. With all the things that happen in our busy lives, it seems challenging to think that anyone would know which events to connect and how many of them. The main indicator is always “emotional charge”. If there is something within us that is ready to heal, that energetic will help us attract experiences which will trigger an emotional response. The emotional response is the key thing to notice. The wounded parts of us hold the emotional charge of the original wound that was not expressed or resolved at the time of the triggering event. That charge is released as we heal and we are therefore no longer triggered by events related to it.

Since connections between events will occur over time as opposed to single events which we can deal with at the time, these larger issues can be harder to spot. Typically the first event will remain unresolved for various reasons and already have our attention drawn to it when the related event(s) occur. On the surface these events may or may not seem connected and this is where introspection comes in and a bit of intuition. Do the events have a similar theme or is the same core issue being triggered by two dissimilar events? Is there a pattern that seems to be repeating across events? If you find yourself saying “why does this keep happening to me?” you can believe that there is a wound in there somewhere trying to heal.

It takes deep introspection to know if the events are related and there is no set formula for how that is done. The best way to know is to trust your intuition. If you feel or think there might be a connection between events, trust that and spend some time journaling or talking with a friend (both help to keep your awareness on the issue) about it and in all likelihood you’ll find that connection.

Once you find the issue that connects seemingly unrelated events, chances are that you’ll see how this issue is playing out in other aspects of your life. If the issue is pretty widespread from that perspective, odds are that you have a default setting that needs attention as well. As the name implies, a default setting is a habitual action which we typically do without even thinking about it or even thinking that it’s an option to not do it. It’s so instinctive that the action goes totally unnoticed. In my case I was defaulting to emotional distance with straight men because of my fear of how they would respond to it. I wasn’t allowing room for them to have control of their emotions or for them to have the confidence to be comfortable being around gay guys. My wounded inner child was passive-aggressively trying to keep me safe. In truth he was keeping me from feeling the support and friendship of other men who have done their own inner work and wanted to be my friend.


BEING QUIET WOULD BE EASIER...BUT NOT BETTER

This has been a difficult entry for me because it is so personal. I’ve struggled to even continue to try and write it and thus the delay in getting it posted. If I hadn’t mentioned it in the last entry, I’m certain I would have abandoned it some time ago. I’m really glad I didn’t though because the act of getting it written has revealed so many things to me in addition to the things I’ve shared in the post.

I invite you to notice what your default settings are and ask yourself if it is set to the way that works for you now as opposed to a time early in your life when you probably set it unconsciously. If it isn’t, you can change that default by holding your awareness on it when it gets triggered and consciously choosing to respond in the new way that does work for you. It will take several times of repeating that change for it to take effect but it will happen. It will only happen however if you are conscious about it. It is “conscious evolution” at work. My hope is that through this blog I will give you the tools and awareness to help effect that type of change through conscious competency.


Are you willing to raise your awareness to the level where you can observe the interconnectedness of life and your experiences within it to find the places in you that need healing?