Relationships, Pain, and Finding Our Deepest Selves

Famous American psychiatrist and author William Glasser says that how we negotiate and take care of the handful of extremely important relationships we will have in our lives, in a large way determines whether we’re happy or not. Our relationships with our parents, our wives, our husbands, our children, our best friends, our mentors, our pets, are enormously significant.

I often talk about families and issues that result from family dynamics and history. What happens within our family circle when we are young is hugely influential on how we turn out as individuals. There’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of healing even in the best of families—we’re only human, and we’re not perfect.

One of my favorite of Ken Wilber’s humorous comments is, “If you think you’re enlightened, go home for the holidays.” When we go back to our families, we can feel our whole past history come alive, and if we’re engaged in an interior practice and are beginning to experience mindfulness, we can see deeply into a lot of our conditioning. We can feel the pain of unresolved issues, old hurts, old wounds, old loyalties, old loves, and new loves—the continually evolving pattern of the family, as we age and as new members pop onto the scene.

I’m talking about this now, because I and my wife, Pam, recently drove 3,000 miles round trip to visit my parents and help out because my Dad had been sick. So I went home, and man, it was hard for me. I’ve been pretty good for a number of years now, so I thought I kind of had this one licked. But it seems to be a spiral: you go back, you get to go around the spiral again, but you’re at a different level when you come around.

Anyway, this trip I seemed to be the target. A lot of anger was coming my way, and it was all pretty passive aggressive. Nobody was telling me what was going on. I realized that I was just defenseless! I didn’t have any defenses from my family. They were totally getting to me. I became angry. It messed up my tennis game one day… Wow, what a crisis, right? But it hurt.

So, we finally drove home, and the first day I got up and I was feeling good. I did my meditation. I did my work in the morning. I was going to go run, get the car fixed, and do all this stuff. Then all of a sudden, it hit me: I was exhausted. So I took a nap, woke up a half hour later, and said to Pam, “God, I’m so depressed!” I know depression well—the heaviness, the “I suck” feelings, the whole world sucks feelings. (The world sucks, but you suck even more.)

So I reached over and grabbed my iPod and started to sit. As I was meditating, my body started releasing pain. It was really, really hard to sit. Eckhart Tolle talks about the pain body, and in Integral thought, we talk about the three bodies: the gross physical body, the subtle energetic body, and the causal body that everything arises in moment to moment. It seems that our emotional pain is lodged somewhere between the gross physical body and the energetic body. As Peter Levine, who is one of the leaders in the field of recovery from trauma, says, trauma is a biological problem; it is not a psychological problem. I love that. It’s somatic.

So, I was sitting there with pain coming out of my body, and there was no relief. It just got more intense. I continued to sit with it, and after about 50 minutes, I felt totally exhausted and went back to sleep. When I woke up, I thought, okay, I’m better. The human ego’s defense mechanisms are very complex systems—I thought it was pretty interesting how my psyche and my body had waited until I was out of the combat zone, basically, until I got home and was in a safe place, to release all the pain that had accumulated.

I have worked with a lot of people in my lifetime and compared to some stories that I hear about families, my family is really pretty good. Be that as it may, the visit was really painful, and in doing the practice, the pain just came out.

In Buddhism, the first noble truth is that we’re born, we’re here, and we suffer. So, we all have trauma. There’s just the trauma of being a human and connected to our big, suffering, evolving human family, who hasn’t quite figured out how to be nice to everybody yet. Ultimately, I think that if we want to evolve and be what we essentially or potentially can be, we have to give into the experience of being alive in a universe that is friendly—even though it looks outwardly insane. We really haven’t learned how to be nice to ourselves or to other life forms yet, but I think we’re getting there.

Relationships, Pain, and Finding Our Deepest Selves

Who knows if there is past life stuff or karmic stuff that goes on? There’s definitely enough stuff just in one lifetime—we all have our stuff. If that stuff is not dealt with, transmuted, and released, it becomes a curse. It affects us emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically. But the cool thing is if it is dealt with in our interior practice—our releasing practice, mindfulness practice, meditative practice, contemplative prayer practice—it becomes the raw material and the stuff of transformation.

When we let our bodies have the corrective experiences of just feeling the feelings, our pain releases. There is a real shift, and there’s a real deepening. There is also a functional faith that begins to emerge that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how deep the tragedy, how outrageous the outrage, whatever it is, if we stay with it, if we allow ourselves to sink into it, to go inside it, to bless it from the inside out and from the outside in, and just let it do what it needs to do, it will not rip us apart. It will not blow up the universe. It will not kill us. It will not drive us crazy. It will heal us.

I think this is amazing, and we’re really just learning it. We seem to be emerging into a golden age of learning how the somatic qualities are connected to the spiritual, the emotional, the psychological, the intellectual, and the physical.

So, if we allow ourselves to go into the pain, into the darkness, into our own personal Dante’s Inferno that we have inside of us, and all of our collective infernos, too, for that matter, ultimately we will reach the place of connection, healing, love, and remembering who and what we actually are, always have been, and always will be. When we do this work and open ourselves to the hurt, to the tears, to the despair, to the agony, to the grief, we get through it and that’s where we find God, if you will. That’s where we find our essence—our truest, deepest selves. We find nothing other than the all, and we are it.

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Adapted from iAwake Technologies’ free, weekly teleconference call on June 5, 2013

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John DupuyJohn Dupuy is the CEO of iAwake Technologies and the founder of Integral Recovery, a holistic addiction treatment approach inspired by Ken Wilber’s Integral Model. He is also the author of Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to Alcoholism and Addiction, recently published by SUNY Press. As a pioneer in the use of brainwave entrainment in therapy and personal development, John has dedicated his life to helping others deepen their spiritual practice and transform their lives.

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