Archive for August, 2010

Understanding Depression: A Letter to a Friend

Melancholy (1891) by Edward Munch

As you are well aware from all of your reading and experience with eastern teachings, we are not any thought. Rather, we are like light that shines on everything alike. However, this shining becomes obscured through its replacement by thoughts regarding our personal identity.

Thus, we are born as this light. However, shortly after birth, often in the very first days of our life, we experience a separation trauma. The effects of this trauma are extensively documented within modern anthropological observation and you can read about this documentation first-hand in Morris Berman’s outstanding book Wandering God (

While a very young baby cannot speak, he can feel and the feeling he will experience will be one with of intense, uncontrollable pain, as an inevitable result of his separation trauma. At first, the pain is incidental to the separation, but over time it becomes more constant and then generalized. With the development of language it assumes form as one of several different thoughts. They fall into such categories as I am inadequate/unlovable/insufficient. How we personally experience our inadequacy (unlovability, etc) becomes increasingly specific over time. So, it might take the form of “I am not good looking enough to be liked”, or “I am not smart enough” or “I am a slob” – it really can take any negative form – but the generalized underlying pain and suffering remains.

So the psychological self adapts to the pain by creating compensating selves. I call these selves “fear-selves” in my book, Liberation from the Lie. They are designed to negate the underlying identity. So, if you have the belief that I am ugly, you might becoming compulsively addicted to working out, cosmetics, etc. If the belief assume the form of stupidity or irrelevance, it will assume the form of becoming an expert/someone who needs to be heard. It often assumes the form of becoming “holy” and superior to those others who are consumed by the material (inferior) world. Because the main purpose of the Fear-Self is to obtain love and appreciation, it often takes the form of the persistent pleaser. It can take as many forms as there are underlying self-hating ideations.

Secondly, the underlying self-hating ideations mirror the very invalidation that we experienced so vividly in our primal separation trauma, as well as the countless experiences of hearing, first-hand how stupid and annoying we were from our otherwise, well intended parents. We learn that love is not a birth-right, instead it is earned. So we adopt behavioral modes craftily designed to obtain brownie points and the admiration of significant others. Most people live the whole of their lives this way. Often when we desperately seek to please those whose love we need the most, and when that love and appreciation is not returned in a way we want or expect, our love can turn to contempt and even hate.

Depression occurs anytime the over-lying fear-selves experience failure. Failure causes their facade to crumble and the moment that happens, we are pushed face-to-face with the fear-selves underlying construct, i.e., I am unlovable/inadequate/insufficient. I call this underlying “KING” belief, the Wound. The Wound is our principle governing principle operating in our psychological universe. So when a fear-self experiences its inevitable failure in the real world, we are thrust back into our primal world, in direct contact with our Wound. And this is extremely painful. This is the very source of suffering that drives all of our “positive” love seeking ambitions. It’s like a yo-yo where the Fear-Selves are like the spinning wheel, but the governing hand and arm are the Wound. We also realize that the Fear-Selves are inverse representations of their source Wound. In other words, it’s the self-negating belief that always wins in the long run. We have much more belief in our inadequacy that in any opposing and compensating form our psychological self may assume.

Only a fear-self would compulsively seek a “solution” to this dilemma. The search for a solution reifies the reality and truth of the underlying self-hating belief. So the search for a formula that will make it all better merely sustains the process. The ego hates hearing that, but such is life.

So the process I discuss and advocate in my book recommends that we explore an accomodation with the Wound. Instead of fleeing it in sophisticated and subtle ways via a Fear-Self, we take the brave act to just turn around and take a very careful look at the source of our suffering. I think it might be helpful to have a friend or therapist help with this part of the journey. We really need to get to know this King belief which enslaves the personality in all of its forms. We must re-visit the time and place where we first made sure agreement with our invalidators and gave birth to this vast pool of suffering which has directed our psychological lives ever since. By loving our Wound, we begin to Love our invalidated childhood self. We are acting to REVERSE the underlying process of invalidation. This is direct healing.

We also get to understand that the way we suffer as an individual, is the way everyone suffers, so we know that we are never alone with our suffering, although it might feel that way. This forms the basis for authentic compassion with everyone else and everything in our world. We begin to really appreciate this Wound and the desperate and compulsive life of fleeing it by doing ever more elaborate and sophisticated coping strategies can finally come to an end.

There is more to it than this, but that’s why I wrote the book. I hope this was helpful. This is not a simple topic and I have summarized a lot of complexity into a handful of paragraphs. If you are dealing with persistent unhappiness or depression in your life, then I really urge to take a detailed look at my book. I think you will find a new way to deal with this often overwhelming challenge. I also hope that you don’t read these words as just crass marketing on my part. I make almost no income on my book. I wrote it out of love.

I wish you the very best.


Tomorrow I’m going to talk about a pretty subtle part of this problem. Stay tuned.


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The World is Inside You – The Next Step

Awareness has no next steps. The only entity who cares about next steps or what she/he might “get out” of this realization exists exclusively on Level Two identification, the self, the individual, the thought that cries out – that’s me!

This is the fear-based life of belief. The human being who believes she is a thought labeled “me” is living exclusively out of uninvestigated belief. It’s no different from believing in the tooth fairy or santa claus.

Once it is fully realized that we are not a thought, then there is truly no one who could ever be enlightened. That is a huge joke. It’s perfectly okay to be the butt of that joke, for he who is a butt, is also a thought, so who could possibly care?

Every thought that asserts that it is you is false. Thus you can never be improved.

The entity that you refer to as you is just a procession of thoughts that we might label as good, bad, neutral, active, dull, etc.

Everything we experience is just another thought. There truly is no place we could go. The very best the mind could ever formulate, would just be another thought seeking to discover a better thought. Isn’t is ridiculous – absurd? Let’s get off this merry-go-round.

It is all turbulence celebrating a non-entity.

The game of seeking the self – of pining for enlightenment – ends the instant it is truly realized that there is no self that can be contained within thought. None – Zero – Null Set. Yes the personality continues, how could it not????? And why would that ever be a problem? If you hate yourself, then it’s just a case of one thought hating another thought and playing out their theatrical performance … for the benefit of whom????????

All thoughts, especially we must know – those thoughts about the self, are just bubbles passing through a field of awareness. When we pin any identity onto them, then we have invoked the authority of ignorance in our lives. It really couldn’t be simpler than that.

So then, is there anything to do?


The only impact this realization could have for us is that we stop doing what is ignorant. We stop seeking a better me. We stop dreaming of an enlightened me.

Also, we stop believing in an ugly me – a bad me – or an “anything” me.

Our minds respond to realization with grace, connection, pleasure, and love. Ignorance returns and we softly smile, for we have seen it arise in our lives countless times. Emotional pain arrives and we greet it with appreciation (with the same openness that awareness offers everything), for knowledge of emotional suffering allows us to unite with all others who similarly suffer. Thus suffering is a gift – it is essential for authentic compassion.

For we never leave Level 2. Our personality continues in this life, but it is now free to love itself just as it is – or not. It’s all just thought doing its thing. Thus the highs and lows will continue, but they will be free from the enslavement to seeking a better me, an enlightened me. That is the only difference. It becomes bored with such talk, for it has traversed that field a million times and now it’s time to move on.

Our own aliveness is one with the aliveness that is seamlessly everywhere and holds everything.

So what is the freedom of liberation? It is freedom from the running after an alluring me that isn’t real. That’s it in a very small nutshell. Reflect on what that means!

Now you really are free!!!!!

What more can one say? The more we say, the more questions the ignorant false-self will produce. So enough for now. It’s time for coffee and bagels.

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The World is Inside You

Reflection in Rain Puddle by the Author

This phrase “the world is inside you” is often repeated in spiritual circles. But what does it mean? How can we take this profoundly powerful statement from mere words to direct experience?

First, let’s take a look around. What do we see? What can we hear – touch – feel?

We can notice that our sense impressions are recorded by our brain. We can also realize that our brain is also “inside us”. Everything we experience can be experienced as “inside us”.

But there is a deeper realization here. I have noticed three discrete levels to experience. We can call our experience of our senses as Level One.

For each sense impression there is also a “me” that is sensing. That “me” occupies the center-point of our immediate experience.

So far, so good.

Now let’s take a careful look at this center-point; me. Can’t we also see that this oh so personal me, with its countless thoughts and experiences is also inside us? As we quietly observe this personal me, we realize that it too is an object of awareness. What we have taken as the center point of our experience is, like everything else, on the periphery of the world.

What is this “me” that attracts all of this attention, that seems to anchor our experience? Is it not the body with its drives – this conditioned mind with its fears and hopes – is it not this thoughtfulness that assesses many moments for their value or irrelevance? This me is a compelling zone of energy molded by our physical self and our personal psychology.

From the perspective of Liberation from the Lie, this me is, primarily, one of several “fear-selves” each of which possesses its own cluster of fears and desires. Each is rooted in the underlying stratum of inadequacy and, deeper still, the Wound which gives birth and life to all our Fear-Selves. This rather complex cluster of beliefs, needs, ideas, and all the rest constitute our personal sense of self. But, if we carefully read this book, we can see that they are really an adaptive construct designed to keep us at a very safe distance from the much more feared darkness of the Wound. We can really see all of this – both as an intellectual concept and, more importantly, as a way that predicts and describes our immediate experience perfectly. We see all of this as we might see it all acted out in a play or movie.

When we feel depressed, trapped, or hopeless, we know that our primary Fear-Selves have been unable to adapt to life, as they have in the past. There are chinks in the armor. Our life-long commitment to transcendence, to figuring this “thing” out, to just getting over our own bullshit is now in the very process of collapse. Now the dark essence of the primal Wound enters our immediate consciousness. As our Fear-Selves deteriorate, our positive beliefs about our psychological self morph back into the negative self-images that we birthed by the Wound many, many years ago. We come to believe that we truly are losers, we are unattractive, unworthy of love, stupid, we are insufficient to the demands of our own Fear-Self based beliefs. The pores of our Fear-Selves have expanded and the dark heat of the Wound pierces our once happy life. This is the crisis we both feared and pained for.

This is a gift – for now, we don’t have to flee to some belief system or to something that has “worked” for us in the past. Instead we can abandon the struggle to escape through thought and face what is truly real – our most compelling internal fear. So we turn around and face the immense goblin that resides in the very center of our sense of self and see what happens next. This is something that is explored in great detail in my book and I suggest that if your want to start a path based on reality and direct experience instead of second-half beliefs handed down by everyone that is not you, then you would do yourself a favor to examine this path.

This too is inside us. All of it is inside us.

Once this personal self is seen as another object, not really much different from any other object, what we have taken as our center point dissolves.

If we have followed all of this, we see that we are really that which is aware of this ceaselessly unfolding world. What can we say about this field of awareness? First know that not many people inhabit this world of awareness. Sure, we are all aware, but we are really expericning is the quality of attention and not awareness. Attention is an activity of the mind and often at the service of a Fear-Self. Our identification with the “I/me” blocks this deeper field of life. We confuse attention with awareness. Everything we say and do – everything – including the words of this post, come from Level 2 – the personal me, for Level 3 is silent, seeing, and unchanging. Everything we say and do, is a consequence of attention.

The field of awareness has absolutely no inherent quality that we can ever objectify. It is utterly serene. It is open to the light that is everywhere in and as everything.

At first we just have brief touches from this underlying world and over-girding world. But the more we see the psychological self as just another object among millions of objects, the more space we will allow for the emergence of this underlying field of being. The less said about this field, the better. But the more it is realized that everything and everyone is inside us as a briefly objective truth, the more potential we will enable to arouse the emergence of this very subtle beingness.

Awareness is different from everything else because it is utterly characterless. It is the nothingness that holds the everythingness.

Note: it’s essential that you understand that this post is not you to overcome any fear or concern in your life. It is only to see it as a passing element in your life. The source of this seeing is the vast field of awareness that is your fundamental, unborn nature.

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How to Heal the 2 Americas

Phil Bluehouse - One of My Healers - Blessings to You

John Edwards, the now justly reviled ex-senator from North Carolina, spoke often about the 2 Americas. He was referring to the Haves and Have-Nots of this country and his focus was economic. He took this argument one step further when he made it clear that the Republicans were the party of the Haves and the Democrats were the party of the Nots (have-nots).

As appealing as his message was to many (myself included), he made two critical errors. His first error was that he ignored America’s ethnic and cultural divide. There are the many millions of white, Christian Americans who insist that they are the real Americans. Those of color, those that are gay, those that are Moslem (or Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever) are not as American as they are. These real Americans don’t really hide their contempt for diversity. The other America, which includes many white Christians, is one whose identity is not race or faith based. This America celebrates its diversity and strongly rejects the cultural idea of an America that is fundamentally white, Christian, always straight, and oppressively patriarchal.

So Yes – there are two Americas, but on one dyad it is defined economically and on the second spectrum it is cultural. They overlap in interesting ways. But when we understand this enormous divide, we can see why the Have-Nots will never be able to effectively organize as a force to reform (or replace) the power elite rule of America. For it is with the very elites, who enjoy exploiting their loyalty to fight their wars and pay their taxes, that this real America so strongly identifies with. It would be funny, were it not so painful.

The other error made by Edwards was that the Democrats represent the Have-Nots. Both parties represent the Haves. Their rhetoric varies and the Dems will give occasional lip service to the needs of the “Nots”, but both parties suck from the same teets of the military industrial, mega-corporate, health conglomerate (“MILICORPCON”). The eat from the same pig trough and play the essential game of election campaigns that offer choice with the knowledge that Americans are naive and stupid enough to continue supporting the very entities that are sucking their life blood and leaving them littering the streets with their hollowed out bodies and devastated towns. It’s a game which the Haves must win and the Nots must lose.

It’s rigged from the get-go – but that truth is so uncomfortable that few of us are willing to admit it.

What prevents America from ever moving forward is the massive gaping Wound that lies in the very heart of our national fabric. And this is where I turn to the message of my book,Liberation from the Lie, to bring all of this together. We have a national Wound and that Wound is all about the other 2 – the hidden 2.

I am referring to the war of extinction waged against the Native people of the Americas that began on that very morning when Columbus first laid foot on this American land in 1492 and I am talking about the importation of millions of slaves into this land from Africa. The great power of this land was built on a foundation of genocide. All of that happened and we know it.

So how did we address this massive gaping whole in our cultural being? We covered it up with banal stories of our Manifest Destiny, of our rightful place on this land, on the myth of the white Christian Man who cleared the forests to make way for wonderful farms and fabulous cities. We relegated the Native People to pitiful places where all the good land is still own by Whites (YES even on Reservations!) and our immense national racism has succeeded to convince Black folks that they are truly not welcome as equals unless they do the Christian bourgeois dance for their continuing masters.

Our Fear-Self is the very notion that we are this land of the free and the brave who are neither free nor especially brave. We live in a dream designed to compensate for our bloody sins. This is the one dream that unites the Haves and the Nots. As long we sustain this banality, we will never survive. Not only will we fail as a nation and collapse on the rubbish heap of other failed empires, but we will bring down many around us, for our ugly dream gives us a violent swagger that others find contemptuous at best.

Our collective healing comes in discovering what is true in our nation and in our hearts. The challenge of waking up is, clearly, not just an individual matter. It is the fundamental national issue.

We must come to this truth as a supplicant. We must fall to our knees and apologize for what we have done. We must open our hands, our hearts, and our wallets to the dispossessed.

We must dis-abuse ourselves from our own national Fear-Self. We need to bring the searing light of what is true to our National Wound and show it to the world. Germany has done this with their own recent horrific history. It was relatively easy for them, since their crimes were created by a regime seen as profoundly deviant by all but the few and demented. They were not allowed to sleep in the sweetness of their own ignorance. Their massive crimes were brought to light and they had no choice but to lay themselves open. And, by doing so, they have provided profound healing.

A very similar scenario was followed in South Africa with their Truth and Reconciliation hearings that followed in the wake of the collapse of the white apartheid regime. They took a giant step toward national healing and solidarity with their commitment to truth and justice built on a foundation of forgiveness.

We can do the same and if we don’t, we will fail as a nation. We will just die and our vain monuments will be ignored. The truth cannot be believed away forever. Underneath all the clouds of denial and obfuscation, the truth still shines. That is the very core message of Liberation from the Lie. Your own individual truth shines in your own heart shining its light on everything everywhere. You will continue believing in your stories until you don’t. But the more you put off realizing your own truth by seeing what is false (your beliefs), you will continue to suffer the pain and bleeding of your own Wound.

This is all about healing. The healing must come first. Become your own physician and bring the loving healing light to yourself – to your neighborhood, to your community, to your nation, and to your world. When that moment arrives you will all but drown in your own thankfulness and the earth – the flowers, the birds, the wind, the seas, and the mountains, will rejoice with you. The great thread that connects all of life in you – its unity – will be seen and felt again and you will be One in This.

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The Key to Contentment

This is it! Hear these words and if you have questions, then send them along. Know that the light is not ever “your” light. It is just light and the light can be grasped by no one and you are that no one. You are the light, but you can never grasp what you already are! So stop chasing for what your hurting ego commands you to hunt. Stop now.

What you don’t want is to be someone … anyone! – For you are that one already, but that is neither body, personality, or object. Welcome to your own realization.

Then … just relax and do what you love.

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Portraits of the Fear-Selves: Chapter One from Liberation from the Lie

This post is actually Chapter One of my book Liberation from the Lie: Cutting the Roots of Fear Once and for All. This book has been ranked third by the Enlightenment Dudes among all of the philo-spiritual books they have reviewed.

I was inspired to post this key chapter on account of a comment that I received today from a reader. This person said,

Been reading your book since you sent it. Brilliant! Spiritualist, pleaser, rebel, ha ha ha ! tons of images from the past as a child as a teenager as a parent. Images of my parents and my children. There is a sense of sadness, relief and indescribable joy! This hits me right is the solar plexus. Thank you for this gem Eric.

As you read this chapter reflect on your own nature. Which Fear-Selves resonate with your own personal history? Do you have a dominant Fear-Self? Do you have more than one Fear-Self. Often our dominant Fear-Self is evident is special situations. The Fear-Self is the compensating personality construct perfectly designed to shield us from the pain, turmoil, and outright suffering of its underlying Wound. There are usually more than one Fear-Self, but there is only one Wound. We’ll get to that later.

What follows is Chapter One …

1 – Portraits of the Fear-Self
Before we explore the roots of the Wound and its compensating personality overlays, let’s take a look at some of the common Fear-Selves. Remember that the Fear-Self is an identity we create to shield us from the pain of the separation trauma. Fear-Selves are also molded by the social institutions that make up our society and culture, particularly our families of origin and schools.
The examples below are intentionally simplified. No one is a single, pure type; rather, we are combinations of many Fear-Selves, some of them very subtle but quite powerful in their impact. In fact, the subtler Fear-Selves are likely to be more important, in the long run, to identify. Often we are so closely identified with our Fear-Selves that we need the help of others to recognize them.
For clarity’s sake, the “Fear-Self” label is predicated on four conditions:

  1. The person becomes attached to the identity in order to counter the negative feelings of the Wound;
  2. The person has an irresistible need to be identified in this way, and the resulting thoughts, feelings, and actions are compulsive;
  3. The person seeks validation through this identity; and
  4. The person believes that being identified in this way will result in enduring happiness.

Each Fear-Self type is listed by name, common social roles represented by the type, predominant characteristics, underlying Wound, the resulting life view, and common personality variants.
The Achiever
Common social roles: Salesman; physician; attorney; executive/manager; politician.
Predominant characteristics: Driven to succeed, achievements must be visible, always preparing for what’s next. He is addicted to others identifying him as a powerful person, one to be reckoned with.
Fears/Insecurities: Fear of failure; resentment of competitors, especially those in the same field whose achievements have outshone his own. Any event in which success is threatened may result in high levels of anxiety. May become isolated, bitter, and self-critical if failure is experienced.
Wound: I am incompetent, worthless, and powerless.
Life view: The story of his successes and the brilliant way he has addressed challenges dominates his view of life. Believes that increased achievement will lead to a stable sense of fulfillment. Often unaware of his own need for adulation. Often a conspicuous spender.
Variations: The Patriarch, often seen in bosses and political leaders. This type can be prone to violence when challenged and depression when not validated. In extreme form, The Achiever can become a sociopath (Hitler, Stalin).
The Pleaser
Common social roles: Housewife; not-for-profit or volunteer worker; social worker.
Predominant characteristics: Perfectionism, needs to do everything “just right,” keeps tastes and activities neutral to avoid offending others.
Fears/Insecurities: Fear of isolation, broken family, ache of inner emptiness when the party’s over, haunted by fear of not pulling off her social persona properly. Without social accolade, she is nothing. Fear of not being liked, of losing social status, of being ostracized.
Wound: I am unlovable.
Life view: Her personal history tends to be inconsequential, but she is proud of her orderly way of living (well-maintained home, manicured lawn, loving, “normal” family). Likes to host social events, but only if the conversation remains polite and generally insincere; she is embarrassed by loudness or raucousness. Sexual expression is reticent, highly controlled. Can’t say “no” to any request, and will manufacture reasons to help people even when help is not requested. Addicted to compliments and acknowledgment. Hypersensitive to others’ opinions, interpreting others’ “looks” and comments as innuendo and criticism. Responds to others’ failure to express appreciation for her efforts with covert or overt hostility.
Variations: The “Do-Gooder,” who loves to be associated with helping the “less fortunate,” but whose underlying motivation is public accolade.
The Body Person
Common social roles: Found across all classes and work positions, but especially among actors and other performers.
Predominant characteristics: Compulsive focus on the body, face, diet, and health.
Fears/Insecurities: Fear of physical decline, disease/sickness, death, social rejection on a physical basis, and time.
Wound: I am ugly, I am unwell, I am fragile.
Life view: I must look and feel good. Time, as expressed in aging, is a constant enemy. Frequent obsessive fear of germs (see the Terrified One), excessively self-conscious with respect to body image. Feels superior to people not focused on their physical appearance and/or strength/flexibility. This type will often focus on accessories, make-up, perfumes, and other items that enhance their physical attractiveness. Likely to be uncritical of cosmetic surgery or other modification of body parts. Self-appraisal is often highly unrealistic (in either direction – positive or negative).
Variations: The Body Person shares many characteristics with The Terrified One (below).
The Expert
Common social roles: Professor; physician; attorney; engineer; mechanic; geek.
Predominant characteristics: Utterly knowledgeable on all subjects, full of information and expertise and eager to share them with anyone and everyone.
Fears/Insecurities: Fear of being seen by others as incompetent, irrelevant, inconsequential; fear of being ignored. Can’t tolerate being trumped by a “superior” intellect or expert.
Wound: I am stupid/incompetent; I am not worth being seen or heard.
Life view: Loves to pontificate, always assuming a tone of authority. Sees other people as stupid and seeks every opportunity to demonstrate his authority through knowledge. Belittles others’ intellects and becomes indignant when confronted by an adversary. Believes that the acquisition of knowledge can ultimately fulfill his desire for happiness and contentment, which manifests in the acknowledgment of his knowledge and authority by respected others.
Variations: The Critic and Competitor, who loudly proclaims that he knows the best restaurants, films, vacation spots, sports tips; The Cynic, who covertly assumes superiority over others and sees most people as dumb and naïve.
The Spiritualist
Common social roles: Student; academic; artist; social activist.
Predominant characteristics: Perennially seeking higher truth, enlightenment; tending toward elitism in spiritual matters.
Fears/Insecurities: Fear that he will never reach his goal, will never be among the chosen ones; over time, he sinks into existential despair as the knowledge that he will never attain his goal becomes increasingly apparent to him.
Wound: I am ordinary; I am not special.
Life view: Is very vested in the story of his “holy journey.” Amasses mountains of books focusing on spiritual issues; endlessly attends workshops, satsangs, retreats. His sense of well-being is dependent on seeking. Tends to reject the world around him, which is seen as pervasively crass, as well as his perceived self, which he believes to be an illusion.
Variations: The Self-Help Fanatic, prone to melancholy and hopelessness as the answers perpetually elude him.
The Tough Guy
Common social roles: Police/military officer; prison guard; bartender; executive/manager; construction worker; tradesperson (electrician, plumber, etc.).
Predominant characteristics: Stoic yet easily angered, domineering, emotionally distant, adheres to traditional/patriarchal values (either gender).
Fears/insecurities: Fear of being seen as soft or weak, effeminate, self- conscious.
Wound: I am weak, vulnerable, unprotected.
Life view: Nobody is going to push me around; I can protect and stand up for myself. Not willing to allow others to get to close to him emotionally, although he cultivates mutually validating, usually same-sex friendships with similar types. Enjoys confrontation because it gives him the opportunity to demonstrate his toughness. In its milder form, The Tough Guy can simply be prim and proper and know what’s best for everyone else.
Special comment: The Tough Guy’s Wound lies just beneath the surface. If his defenses ever fail him, tears and weakness surge forth with heart-rending intensity. This is a scenario often favored in movies. For example, in the film “On the Waterfront,” when Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) tells his brother (Rod Steiger) that he “could have been somebody,” the audience is deeply touched by his immense sadness.
Variations: The Loner, who similarly needs to protect himself but who generally retreats from confrontation (see below).
The Loner
Common social roles: Any position that accommodates his preference for low visibility, such as low-level office worker, writer, artist, specialized consultant.
Predominant characteristics: Needs to stay separate, removed from others, both emotionally and physically; feels safest when emotionally unconnected with others.
Fears/insecurities: Fear of intimacy and commitment; expends a lot of energy on avoiding relationships and maintaining a life alone.
Wound: Generalized pain from separation; “I was hurt too badly to risk being hurt by others again.”
Life view: Getting involved with others can only lead to disappointment and heartache, so he remains apart. Other people are the source of trauma, and anyone who gets close to him has the potential to hurt him. As people become close to The Loner, they are projected as mother substitutes. The Loner will inevitably have difficulties with issues of intimacy and commitment. He pays for his isolation with loneliness, but this is typically a cost he is willing to pay.
Variations: The Loner is a close relative of The Tough Guy, but is not invested in possessing authority over others.
The Imitator
Common social roles: Found in all walks of life.
Predominant characteristics: Very unassertive, indecisive, prone to following authority without question.
Fears/insecurities: Fear of making the wrong choice, so always deferring to the opinions and choices of others.
Wound: “I’m nobody; I’m nothing.”
Life view: The Imitator distrusts her own being; to get along in the world, she finds models for personality traits and co-opts them for her own use. She is motivated by self-loathing. This type tends to become involved in relationships that result in her abuse and humiliation. In its milder form, The Imitator cannot make decisions until she consults with external “experts.” She has no opinions of her own; books, movies, clothing are selected on the basis of trusted reviewers or friends. The Imitator is uncomfortable with spontaneity; everything is checked and considered. She is very uncomfortable expressing herself in public.
Variations: The Victim, who feels she deserves her suffering.
The Terrified One
Common social roles: Varied, but this type is preponderantly represented by women.
Predominant characteristics: Compulsive need to be safe.
Fears/insecurities: Fear of danger, chaos, violence; fear of becoming a victim.
Wound: “I am helpless; the world is a dangerous place.” This type often grew up in a turbulent, chaotic environment that left her with the belief that she is incapable of providing herself with enough safety.
Life view: The Terrified One must have safe places as havens where she can hide from the ongoing trauma of life. This can come in the form of an unchallenging workplace or a highly controlled relationship. She projects her terror onto those she cares about and often imposes her seemingly well-intended, but usually unwanted, obsession with safety oppressively onto others. Over time, others begin to resent her, and then ignore her. The Terrified One is expert at finding justification for her fears. Whether it be germs, crime, career failure, or historical events, she can point to any number of facts or experiences to justify her terror projections. She tends to view those who do not share her fears as naive. In its milder form, this type often has an air of grave maturity, looking down their noses at those who take “foolish” risks. In its most evolved form, this Fear-Self is smug and self-satisfied, an overbearing caretaker of the others in her life.
Variations: Every False-Self contains an element of the insecurity that underpins The Terrified One. The difference is that this type amplifies and centralizes fear to a far greater extent than others.
The Resilient One
Note: The Resilient One is not really a Fear-Self. She has overcome separation and social wounding. This is can be achieved in three ways that may act together or separately. One, her family of origin was unconditionally loving and consistently validated her innate selfhood. Two, she encountered powerful mentors as a young person who enabled her to be resilient in the face of powerful social pressures to conform and to acquiesce to external authorities. Three, she was born with a more vibrant Original Core, which allowed her to overcome separation traumas and social conformity pressures.
Common social roles: This is a very uncommon type, tending to occupy caretaking roles. They may provide care to people, animals, or the planet (nurse, social worker, veterinarian, ecologist).
Predominant characteristics: Even-tempered, generous, patient.
Fears/insecurities: Very mild.
Wound: The Resilient One experienced the pain of separation in infancy, like the rest of humankind, but does not need to rely on a Fear-Self to compensate for the trauma. Why? First, resiliency may have some inborn or genetic component; and second, the unconditional love expressed for her as a child may have been powerful enough to overcome the separation trauma and provide protection against spirit-defeating social institutions.
Life view: Some people have the resources to give and expect nothing in return; can love unconditionally; do not feel the need to defend themselves; and can address conflict with equanimity. The Resilient One does not escape the trauma of separation, and so even she has a Wound. However, the need to counter its pain with an array of Fear-Selves is greatly reduced.
Variations: Not applicable.
Portrait Summary
Each of us has an identifiable personality. Even the Buddha, Jesus, and Lao Tzu had Fear-Selves. While I have listed the most obvious, overriding personality types, it is important to remember that most expressions of the Fear-Self are subtle and can easily escape attention. The differentiating feature in individuals such as the Buddha (who said “I am only a man”) is that, over time, these individuals are able to become largely disengaged from their attachment to their Fear-Selves. They have had life experiences that enable them to see through their manufactured, yet real-feeling, identities. By disengaging from their Fear-Selves, they can come into direct contact with their Wounds. This is the decisive step that allows the glow of the Original Core to shine through and, literally, enlighten us.
This is the first leg of our journey towards our final destination: liberation.


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The Western Journey



These rambling paragraphs describe only my experiences in Indian Country. I’ve also put to paper experiences that I’ve had with non-Indians who were, in some fashion, related to these experiences and times in my life. All of these accounts, words, observations, are as accurate and authentic as my memory and mind allows.


Who knows what draws us to certain places and people. We know it happens. As children we might get glimpses of these people and places when our imagination spins the stories that might fill our days and nights.

Or, maybe, we wander out to an empty meadow, or a ridge of stone overlooking a field of grass, or a deep forest and know that in this place, not so long ago, there lived a very different people. These people sang songs, raised many generations of men and women, and died right here. We might touch the earth and know that those same feet and fingers touched this very same earth. But unlike us, they are gone.

We might look down a suburban highway lined with shopping centers and know that for thousands of years people lived, celebrated, fought, on this same stretch of pavement and concrete. These same people wondered how their lives would play out,, they had girl friends and boy friends. They worried if their companions still cared for them. Whole lives and cultures rose and fell on this place now comfortably covered by stores, roads, and suburban lawns.

We are not them.

We live with the legacy of their removal from “our” world. We don’t want to hear how they disappeared and became, if nothing else, ghosts whose voices are utterly still and silent. What follows is my own account of a journey into these forgotten places.

Beginning from Philadelphia and ending in Arizona, this is as much my tale as it is our story.

Tomorrow: New Jersey and the Rising of the Forgotten Voices

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