Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Repression along the Way

When I learned about the cancer of a colleague I had worked with for a long time, I made it a point to visit him on my regular visits to Germany. We picked a restaurant in the center of Frankfurt and each time I visited, we had lunch there. Initially I wasn't quite sure what exactly my role was in this process. Could I be a healer, a helper, a psychologist? I told my friend about my other career as a spiritual writer and he was naturally interested to learn more about it given the seriousness of the disease.

I knew there was something meaningful about our friendship; we worked in the same industry, we were born in the same country and he was just one month younger than me. In one of the conversations, it seemed that I perceived anger in him. Was it all the accumulated anger and frustration of working in the - sometimes brutal - financial industry? Was he angry at the situation he was in? That would be only natural. After all, he was married and had children just as me and he was afraid and angry. Caught in a situation like that, who wouldn't?

I never had the chance to find out what the true underlying cause of his anger was. His conditions deteriorated and he died before we could catch up again. What I learned about myself though, as I was digesting his tragic death, I had exactly the same struggle in me as he had. I realized that I wasn't spiritually superior in any way; on retrospection I discovered a lot of anger and frustration in me; only, I had never really allowed them to come to the surface. Perhaps it all happened in the name of spirituality; who knows. What I did learn, however, was that I had the same painful soul-searching process ahead of me.

What I now say will hardly make me very popular in the spiritual community, but I think that many of us spiritual travelers start our journey because we repress something inside; we seek peace, love and God because we want to solve a tension that lies buried deep in our sub-conscience. Not that this is a problem, it is better to go with the right cause for the wrong reasons than not at all. While I certainly can't speak for the spiritual community, I know that my friend's premature death gave me a personal wake-up call to start looking what lies beneath.

So how do you dig up what you have repressed? It turns out that I have help that many others may not. My body communicates feelings to me that my mind would never tell me about.  I have a lingering childhood injury that results in a build-up of fluids in one of my ears if something doesn't quite add up inside. Symbolically, it is almost as lava is bubbling to the surface from the depth of my sub-conscience. With the help of my oozing ear I now know when I experience anger and frustration wether I like to admit it or not. It happens  in some family gatherings, some work situations, and even in some spiritual discussions. The ear fluids show me how I truly feel, not how I want to feel. Especially after my friend's death, I now listen carefully to these signs, and immediately adjust my behavior accordingly

So what kind of changes do I embrace when I see the signposts of anger and frustrations within me? I put my foot down with friends, family and colleagues and have them respect my personal boundaries. I express my anger and frustrations as constructively as I can whenever the occasion arises. I give myself a time-out, like taking some vacation days, spending time with nature, friends or my writings. Sometimes the remedy can be as simple as doing some meditation or breathing exercises, or going for a brisk work-out. 

What are my lessons learnt? This state of confusion when the repressed issues bubble yo the surface is a great opportunity to start something new. Redirect this destructive energy. The sooner you get the signal that it is time to change direction, the better. Along the Way, repressions of all sorts will vanish; and many messengers will happily show up to point us in a new direction that helps resolves the inner conflict. Listen to your body; be honest with yourself; listen to the Dao's many messengers and let the Way heal you!

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