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  • Rabbi Mordecai Finley Ph.D.

Cracking the Lies


Reflections on the Daily Spiritual Practice #4

Here is where we are at in my series on "setting up and maintaining a daily practice":

First, take time out of each day, preferably in the morning. Move your consciousness from the ego self, your automatic thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc., and access the higher self, where you can access the observer mind, and be relatively objective about yourself and your life.

Second, once in the observer/objective mind, I start a few ways, usually one of these two. First, my vision for myself - what kind of person I want to be, what values I want to live by? Second, I just start with any disruptions I detect in my ego self. I look out for anger, resentment, despair, grief, irrational obligation (guilt, being an enabler), shame, fear, anxiety, envy and destructive desire. There are many more; this is just a list with which to begin.

Third, once I detect a disruption, I exert an intervention. The intervention consists of questions that you direct toward the force of disruption. Oftentimes the disruption will present itself as a sub-personality. Once you begin to ask questions, you will discover that your sub-personalities actually have a different way of seeing the world from your dominant self. Oftentimes these forces, that want to do something other than live well, easily topple the dominant self from its perch and take over, for awhile.

Last week I spoke, in part, about what happens when the noise of the inner life quiets down. Sometimes when we work through a disruption, we encounter some deep loss or pain. Sometimes the disruptions are just bad habits. Sometimes they are connected to a core wound.

For example, I often meet people with unresolved issues with parents. I meet people angry with a parent, and fearful of that parent's disapproval. There is no age limit on those issues - some people with parent issues are well into their sixties and even older. Some people's parents have incredible staying power, both to live, and to be mean. Sometimes, even after a parent dies, the legacy of the wounds lives on.

Internal ruckus abounds. "My father is not normal." "Why can't my mother be nice to me for a change?" "My father never thinks what I do is enough." "My mother always criticizes me about how I raise my kids." On and on. Once a person slows down and listens to the anger, resentment, grief, despair, shame and anxiety, for example, they see something like a virus, an infection, in their ego self. That virus can chase out any developing sense of purpose or well-being, or any sense of the Divine in one's life. That virus gets triggered in so many small ways. People learn to cope. It would be better to heal.

Sometimes it is important to process that inner force with another person. Speaking to a skilled listener can help you distill the voice. Whatever path you go through to distill whatever virus you are working on, there comes the moment of decision. Take back your voice that has been in exile. Own your life.

People say, "You're right; I guess I should." That is a not a decision. That is avoidance. Such fecklessness is a decision not to look the dragon in the eye. There is a force within, hidden and powerful, that is hijacking your life. Once you detect it, the guesswork is over. Fight back or not. The decision to engage in the struggle does not mean that you yet have the tools or even understand those destructive patterns fully. The decision means you are willing yourself into spiritual warrior-ship.

Counseling a person lacking in courage, I used the metaphor of territory. The person sniffed, "I am not territorial." The statement was so profoundly dishonest in so many ways, yet uttered sincerely. "The path to destruction begins in lies," I recalled. The lack of enough courage to draw good boundaries was dressed up as a pseudo-virtue.

"Would you let your children steal from your wallet? Would you protect your children from a hostile person or let such a person into your home?" I laid on example after example where the only answer is, "Defend my territory, including my cubs and my stuff." The person admitted; "Okay, yes, I guess I am territorial, if you insist on using that word." Yes, I insist. "Defend my boundaries" is the kind of statement that courageous people can say very easily. One can of course add, "Proportionately, with the least force necessary". But start with the principle.

And now I can say, "Then what you said before was not true; 'I am not territorial', as if you might be ashamed of that. Who was that?" We agreed to call her "Non-territorial Nancy". "Nancy" had a theory of why she did not stand up to people, in fact a few, depending on the person. One theory for her husband, one theory for her kids. Hers went back to parents who did not respect her boundaries. Her coping theory was, "Okay, then I have no boundaries." In that statement was hiding rage, resentment and shame. I referred my client, along with Nancy, to a good therapist with this proviso: "getting to the root of the issue with your parents takes time; boundary setting with kids and spouse has to start now."

The daily practice can lead us to these realizations. The daily practice can crack open the dishonesty of the ego self, cracks that let the light of truth and the light of God shine in.


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