Interpersonal Connections

Here is an email I sent to a very intelligent, eccentric and vulnerable client going through a difficult patch. I think it is something we all need or needed to hear at some point in our lives:

I hear you very strongly my dear friend. In a way your non resonation with the normal world is a sign of you being one of the new kind of people being born today to take our planet into new arenas. I often feel the same kind of non connectedness with conventional people, only I can bullshit by pretending to be one of them so they’ll feel comfortable with me. The difference between us is that I’m a better bullshitter than you.

But just be aware that those people who your gifts touch in some way – they see you, they appreciate you. And you must let this appreciation in. The art is not to take on – which you do do, and must learn not to do – the projections of those who cannot understand you and so project on you that there is something wrong with you. As you are very sensitive, you have internalised their negative projections so that how you see you is often through those projections. You have to stop doing this and learn to trust yourself and at the same time also be less critical of those who you feel don’t/can’t/won’t see you, as they will also take on your projections and that won’t do them any good either.

We are all unique and different and we have to do our best to be ourselves and if others don’t see/like/get us, well that’s the way the old cookie crumbles and it is not necessarily because there is anything wrong with us, or for that matter, with them. I think your difficulty is that you are different, and not everyone can see your big heart and big soulfulness, and differences for a lot of people – especially those who are more closed up – can be scary. Yes, in the world where people dance and feel joy and celebrate life, you are seen and accepted. In the world of the critical ego that cannot see anything beyond itself, you are not. Accept this and have this be OK and stop having how you feel about yourself be determined by how certain others perceive you.

This takes courage and determination.

Faith in oneself, faith in others

In his book The Art of Being’, Erich Fromm said this:

Faith in life, in oneself, on others, must be built on the hard rock of realism; that is to say, on the capacity to see evil where it is, to see swindle, destructiveness and selfishness, not only when they are obvious, but in their many disguises and rationalisations.

And we’ve just seen undisguised evil in the premeditated murder of the Saudi reporter Jamal Kashoggi who in his death, has perhaps drawn more attention to everything that is wrong with the Saudi regime – especially with all power now being concentrated in the hands of one man – than ever he could have achieved in his life.

But then this is how most non democratic regimes operate nowadays. The Egyptian leader Al Sisi has had most of the Muslim Brotherhood murdered or imprisoned and Putin thinks nothing of killing off or imprisoning those who oppose him, and the good thing is that the world today is now standing up against this kind of evil . The tyrants in the world are discovering that they can no longer get away with blue murder without paying a price and this is a good thing.’

Gaia’s Wrath

Oh dear, more crazy weather. A typhoon ends in one part of the globe only to be replaced by a tsunami or an earthquake in another. And more innocent people die.

Our planet is fed up with the way we have been treating her and in the same way that if we treat another person badly, they won’t particularly like us, Gaia is fighting back. She’s pissed off with humanity. And quite damn right. Thank goodness for organisations like Avaaz who are coordinating huge campaigns in this area as not enough of our politicians take climate change seriously enough as always it is the poor people, those least responsible for having f-d up our planet, who pay the price. I wonder why we have to wait til crises get so large before we do anything. I mean why didn’t we do more in the 60’s? In a way the whole ‘counter culture’ movement that I was part of, failed.

Perhaps for several reasons; one, we didn’t try hard enough as the immune system of our planet wasn’t sufficiently compromised. Two, we thought ‘all you need is love’ was the answer and it wasn’t, and three, there was too much of a split between those aggressive-ists who said ‘down with the suits’, and the hippies who went East and sat on mountain tops saying ‘Om’!

I think today all of us have to take the health of our planet much more in our hands and do positive things and realise saying ‘Om’ only gets us so far and trying to attack the climate change deniers gets us nowhere. Telling a bad guy he’s bad will only activates his defenses.

The Three Kinds of Madness

For me, there are three main kinds of madness (I won’t elaborate on the many different, subtle strands of each). I call them Cuckoo Madness, Divine Madness – these two sometimes link up together – and Normal Madness, and the most dangerous and the most toxic of all is Normal Madness. Why? Because all those millions of us who suffer from this debilitation, operate out of the illusion that we are utterly sane and that those who see the world differently from us, are insane. So let me say a few words about each:

Cuckoo madness

Cuckoo Madness is the rather silly term I use for psychosis, which is actually a very serious and debilitating state, especially if one does not possess either the wherewithal to stand back and understand it and, as it were, learn to ‘ride its storms’, or conversely, have access to the right kind of medication to control it. When under the grip of a serious psychosis, much of life becomes distorted and we can experience great terror where, for example, we may believe certain people are out to murder us. In her fascinating new book Into the Woods and Out Again which is about her journey into psychosis, Dina Glouberman tells us that:

We go mad when the personal unconscious floods the conscious mind. Mad states have a paranoid quality when you believe some people are okay and some are not, or that you personally have a heroic role to save the world. This period of my own madness was one of the most magnificent, intense, illuminating experiences I have ever had…I was in hell but I was also blessed. Not only did I not die of it, but I moved through from neurosis into psychosis, that state of mind otherwise called insanity or madness, and back into a kind of health that I had not known before…

Experiencing psychotic states, therefore, far from being ‘bad’, would seem to be an integral part of our journey into becoming more fully human. I had a similar, if short-lived journey into this realm in the summer of 1975, when I was living in California training in Transpersonal psychology and exploring Shamanic states of consciousness through sacred mushrooms. By mistake, I gave myself a twenty hour intensive ‘free seminar’ on psychosis when I grossly overdosed and went into an utterly suicidal and despairing state that I thought I would never recover from. Luckily, I did.

Basically, what had occurred was that huge amounts of shadow material stored away in my unconscious, suddenly found doors of perception in my psyche temporarily opening up and so felt liberated to rush through them utterly overwhelming my conscious mind. And in those days, I in no way possessed the wherewithal to protect myself from this onslaught from my nether worlds. It was a terrible and painful excursion into utter madness, but I am happy to say that I recovered and the experience was in essence a gift as I not only learned about how certain dimensions of our psyche can operate in certain instances, but also how to work with other people in similar states.

Divine Madness

Divine Madness exists at the complete other end of the spectrum. Here, our internal doors of perception are also opened, but this time into our ‘higher unconscious’, into the more elevated domains of our psyche. It has been beautifully written about by Plato in Phaedrus:

The greatest blessings come by way of madness, indeed of madness that is heaven sent. It was when they were mad that the prophetess at Delphi and the priestess at Dodona achieved so much for which states and individuals in Greece are thankful; when sane (that is, when they were in a ‘normal state’) they did little or nothing… Madness is a divine gift when due to divine dispensation.

I fully agree and I regard Divine Madness as the highest form of sanity and to be aspired to by all of us, for when we touch these dimensions inside ourselves, we link up with our deeper humanity; we start realising our sacred interconnectedness and our belongingness with the cosmos and as such have access to a much deeper knowing and a much deeper love, joy, wisdom and truth. Divine Madness makes us yearn for justice in the world. We want wars to end and evil to dissolve. Above all, we touch into that domain which ‘normal man’ is most terrified of and defended against, namely ecstasy! In my own, personal quest for ecstasy, I have constantly sought the company of divinely mad people as they inspire me and their presence lifts me. It is so wonderfully refreshing to be with people who are fully and wholly themselves, who are divinely inspired and who are not remotely interested in pleasing you or letting you know how rich or clever or important or superior to you they are.

But beware, my dear friends. Divine Madness can be dangerous. If politicians were to get afflicted, they might dedicate their lives to working for peace and give up serving their own personal interests. If multi-millionaires get struck down – and I’ve observed this happen – they can feel moved to give up their yachts and share their resources with the poor. But this I say to you: even if you’re not a politician or a multi-millionaire, take the risk and go looking for this madness and in so doing you might discover that it may also be stalking you!

I think this quest is the sanest thing any of us can be embarking on in these times of such crises in the world. There are many areas inside ourselves where gateways into divine madness exist and also many catalysts out in the external world and I suggest you go looking for them. It’s more fun than hunting fame or fortune and the rewards will be much greater. So if this affliction ever finds you, I ask you fully to surrender to it. If you like singing, then sing it, if you like politics, then take it into your political life; if you like dancing, then dance it. If you like loving, then share it with all those you love as the beautiful thing about this madness is that it is highly contagious.

A small footnote. Sometimes our inner doors of perception can open to many worlds at different levels at the same time. This was certainly Dina’s experience and is currently the experience of an old friend of mine who though institutionalised and kept on strong anti-psychotic drugs, tells me he is able to channel the spirit of William Blake, and as a great aficionado of Blake’s poetry, I never doubt his genius.

Normal madness

We now come to the truly dangerous and perilously insane realm, one that far too many of us are far too addicted to and where we insist on seeing anyone or anything that does not abide by its beliefs and constructs, as ‘barking’! And this is the domain of ‘normal man’, who Abraham Maslow once described (rather over politely I think) as living in a state of mild and chronic psychopathology and crippling immaturity.

It is this madness, my dear friends, that if our planet is to have a hope in hell of surviving, that you and I are challenged to move away from, to let go our attachments to. I say this as normal, ‘conventional’ reality is truly a toxic reality, one that far too many of us have become far too embedded in, convincing ourselves that it is sane and that we are sane, yet it is not only full of lies but also lies behind every serious problem we face in the world. Our dear Donald Trump is currently its High Priest and we need to be grateful to him for consenting daily to embodying this madness for us in its most extreme and distorted forms. So thank you, Donald, for your unceasing displays of daily psychopathology where you continue to model for us all that is worst about us. We need you as our reflector for unless things become extreme, we tend not to learn from them!

To the extent, then, that we only operate out of ‘normal reality’, we exist in a very closed-off world, walled off from all that is best and most fully human about us, and at the same time, also denying and projecting outside of ourselves, what is worst, and consequently only utilising the minutest part of our true potential. People thus afflicted, hover constantly on the borderline between stupidity, unconsciousness and downright evil. One of normal man’s maddest attributes is that we always think we are right, and that those who disagree with us are wrong.

For example, to this day, Tony Blair still defends his going into the Iraq War, still abides by his terror operation ‘Shock and Awe’ despite the fact that nearly half a million Iraqis lost their lives as a result – in fact, he says he’d do the same thing again! This is the kind of pathology that can take us over when we live with a closed heart and only bow to the gods of reason and logic leading us to create an economy that in its current form, would fall apart were we overnight to stop manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. From this mad mindset, poverty, war and scarcity are seen as inevitable and there is no chance that inequality could ever not exist.

I promise you that if suddenly a legion of divinely mad people took over the governing of our countries, even if they had never received any training, we would probably have a system that after time, would start to work for all. And what for me is very, very exciting is that I see a whole new legion of divinely mad people beginning to emerge out of the woodwork in countries all over the world – people who love celebration and ecstasy and who at the same time, are well grounded in true common sense which has nothing remotely to do with the kind of ersatz ‘common sense’ we associate with normal reality. These divinely mad people believe, along with Krishnamurti, that it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society, and that a new and healthier society needs to be brought into expression.

So, my dear friends, just for a moment stop and ask yourselves: what would it take for you to decide to start being truly sane? And what might you accomplish for your society in the process?

Genius in Sport

Roger Federer achieves zen like concentration during sport

Playing sport has been important to me all my life. Playing tennis, swimming, skiing, hiking; all these activities fill my heart with joy – as sport exercises our hearts and spirits as well as our bodies. For me, sport is also food for my soul! And I try to do it everyday not because I need to but because I love to. When I’ve just won a hard-fought three setter in doubles tennis and I’ve really gone for it and got one or two good shots in, I feel very energised and sense that all parts of me have not only been exercised but also stretched. And I think we need to be stretched in life. Intellectually, spiritually, physically. And putting effort into a particular sport is a good way to achieve it.

Please note I say stretched, not strained, the difference being that strain happens when we push against obstacles, when we try to move forward with the wind blowing against us. It is an effort and it exhausts us. Stretching, on the other hand, occurs when we allow the force to be with us, when we connect to a pocket of energy bigger than ourselves and we surrender to it – like arranging the sails on our boat in such a way that the wind moving against us, is now harnessed to be ‘on our side’ and so is now propelling us forward! The difference between a machine and a human being is that the more the former is exercised, the more it breaks down and gets rusty, whereas with us, the more exercise we do, the healthier we become, and what tarnishes us, is not exercising – having no physical activities that engage us as a totality and so potentially stretch us.

Great sports people have much to teach us about our human possibilities. A Federer, for example, not only enters ‘the zone’ when he plays, but he seems to enter a higher zone than other tennis players and to remain there for longer. It is no mean feat in one’s mid-thirties, to take on seven people all in their early twenties and beat them all without dropping a set, which is what happened at Wimbledon a few weeks ago. And what a joy this match was to watch. I was totally in awe.

For me, Federer is a Zen Master or the Grand Master of tennis. He dances his play. It always looks effortless. Watching that final, I felt he was so aligned to the spirit of the game that that spirit had taken him over, or was playing him rather than him directing the play. In other words, it felt like he was connected into a higher and more intelligent energy circuit that was bigger than him and which was orchestrating the game. In this space, you can’t not choose the right shot; you don’t do unforced errors; in this space, the ball is always in by two centimetres not out by two centimetres. Whereas other great players strain themselves, which is why they always have injuries, Federer never seems to have injuries because he never strains himself. On the contrary, it feels as if the higher energy source he is aligned with, enables him to inhabit a domain of being where broken Achilles tendons, tennis elbows or groin strain are simply not part of its furniture. So just as an Einstein did his mathematical calculations out of a different time-space zone to most other Scientists, or a Tolstoy touched into a universal consciousness when writing War and Peace, so Federer also plays his sport out of a very different world, one that is also pure genius!

The Resacralisation of the Planet

The Resacralisation of the Planet a video lecture that I made for this years Feeding The Soul World Summit. It addresses the price we pay for the secularisation of our society and how we can again bring sacred meaning back into the world; exploring the current world situation according to the three states of being in Satish Kumar’s book The Spiritual Compass.

The Rescralisation of the Planet

Trump, Clinton & the dark side of America

When I work with people in therapy I notice that often, just before they are about to make a big breakthrough – a significant leap to another level – they often have to come face to face with some of the worst things about themselves that are standing in the way. If they can confront and, as it were, embrace or integrate their dark side, then they will move to the next level and if not, they won’t. This process, however, is never easy. It is always painful when one has an image about oneself as being a kind, helpful person only to discover one has a shadow side living inside one that is exactly the opposite! Well, the same thing holds true of the evolution of the larger human collective – humanity as a whole also has a dark side – and so does America and I believe that, as a nation, America is poised on the threshold of making such a leap.

If this is the case, then Trump is absolutely essential to this process and he is offering an enormous gift to the American people generally and to the Republican party specifically. How so? What he is doing is holding up a mirror reflecting everything that is worst about this party – and indeed, worst about ourselves – everything which is low and disgusting and conspiratorial and hatred-filled and which prevents this party moving forward and therefore which badly needs confronting. In an article in today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote: ‘Assuming that Trump loses, many Republicans will try to pretend that he was a complete outlier, unrepresentative of the party. But he isn’t…. and his vices are, dare we say, very much in line with his party’s recent tradition…He is a pure distillation of his party’s modern essence.’ I wonder: will the Republicans have the humility to take this on board? I hope so. There is a character in a Thomas Mann novel that tells us: ‘If a way to the better there be, it lies in our taking a full look at the worst!’ And there’s a hell of a lot of that ‘worst’ out there today.

United States of America Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump

And of course Trump not only embodies that worst but incites it. Every day in the news, we are informed about some new transgression of his or some new person he has insulted. It is well known that he is a bully, a sociopath, a narcissist, a misogynist , a racist and a sexual predator, that he is greedy, a liar, a manipulator and a fantasist and conspiracy-theorist, has a highly inflated view of himself, demeans everyone and everything and that his vision of the world is both narrow and negative. He clearly has multiple personality disorders. For me, he embodies every single trait of the immature, weak, insecure, macho-infested, wounded masculinity that characterises the shadow side of a patriarchal mindset that simply has to die, as it has dominated the world for far too long and is the main reason why our planet is so full of violence and chaos today.

Yes, I think Trump not only embodies the Republican party’s dark side but also America’s dark side and even perhaps the dark side of many of us non-American men as well. Certainly, as a result of all his goings on being paraded in the news every day, he is giving all of us the opportunity to perhaps look at some very ugly parts of ourselves. So perhaps we men need to stop projecting our shadow onto Trump, let him off the hook for a moment and instead look inside our own hearts and see if we too might be carrying some facet of Trump-hood inside us. Perhaps we can even be grateful to him for offering us the opportunity to confront aspects of our own selves standing in the way of our being more fully human!

Of course, it is not by chance that Trump’s opponent in the race for President is Hillary Clinton. While she is certainly not without her faults (it is damn hard, believe me, to operate within the system as she has done for thirty years and not be implicated in it to some extent), I believe she nonetheless embodies many of the qualities required not only to lead America in the tough times that lie ahead, but also to assume leadership on the world stage. A lot of the reasons why she is despised is because she is a woman – a woman with power – there is still a strong misogynistic streak in America, even among women. Hillary is the archetypal warrior lady. She’s a fighter. She is highly intelligent and she works damn hard and I respect her tough-heartedness and courage and she is certainly not devoid of tenderness as her detractors like to suggest. OK., her foundation may have received money from one or two dodgy sources, but it was never money she used for her own self-aggrandisement but always for her projects. People forget that all during her life, she has done a lot in many different ways, to help women and oppressed minorities and this requires a lot of love, integrity and commitment. It is tough work. And what’s wrong with being ambitious? I believe she truly wants to change the system, to create a better world with greater equality for all and I trust that she will keep her word and fight to make all the changes in government that she talks about and that it will no longer be business as usual, that is, politicians not keeping their word, but rather, business being done along brand new lines.

United States of America Presidential Candidate Hillary R. Clinton

At the time I admit I was sad that Bernie Sanders didn’t make it and while I love much of what he stands for, I feel a) that many of his policies will be implemented by Hillary – she’s said she would – and b) that the kind of complex challenges which we face in the world today can best be handled by intelligent warrior women like her as opposed to by old men. The fact that today we are witnessing a whole new raft of these strong women ( Angela Merkel, Teresa May, Nicola Sturgeon) emerging on the world stage, has to be celebrated. This is what the world needs if it is to evolve and heal, namely, the continued emergence of the feminine presence in leadership positions to celebrate the end of the oppressive, backward-looking patriarchy which is everything that Trump represents.

I therefore think it is fantastic that the new US President will be a woman. America is a very fine country. I was privileged to have lived there for over a decade and I am all the better for my experiences, having encountered some of the wisest people on the planet. So when we remember that Jung, who coined the term ‘the Shadow’, told us that ‘the tall mountain casts a long shadow’, we understand why the US shadow is so big and dark. Trump-ism is emerging everywhere not because America is slipping backwards but because the country is moving forward quickly and thus is having to confront all the many skeletons in its closet so that it can continue on its upward journey. For confront these skeletons it must do. There is no way of avoiding this. And what Trump offers is the full monte. Put simply, the world we are moving into today has to transform and move beyond old fuddy-duddy and deluded worldviews. It is not about building walls and denying climate change and waging war against Islam. It is about letting the drawbridges down and honouring climate change and respecting Islam.

The Gift of Trump

As a psychotherapist, I find that if people want to make changes in their lives, they need to see what doesn’t work in their lives and where there might be some part of themselves that is sick or ugly. Often change comes about through experiencing pain and being courageous enough to face dark truths about ourselves. The gift – and I really mean gift – that Donald Trump is giving America is that he is continually holding up a mirror to his country of an aspect of its own wounded, pathological, narcissistic and heartless psyche.

Donald J. Trump

Note I said “an aspect” of its psyche not its whole psyche. There is much about the American character that is also noble, wise and visionary, but Trump represents something that is very, very ugly and by his continuing to remain in the news with all his stupidity and hostility, he is continually reminding his country of this fact and as such is actually doing a very great service. My hope is that Americans will stop projecting their shadow onto him and start taking responsibility by looking inside themselves and recognising certain Trumpian  features inside themselves. Viz., the mindset that went to war in Iraq, that is violent, dumb and obsessed with guns. This self reflection is something  which the Republican party in particular needs to do. Above all, it needs to ask itself: what has happened to its soul that has made it deviate so far from those noble ideals which  initially gave it birth and has thus resulted in its having created this Frankensteinian  monster to represent it. Thomas Mann, in one of his novels, made a character say: If a way to the better there be, it lies in our taking a full look at the worst.

I hope Americans are doing this.