Rachel has dated lots of men over the past fifteen years and at one point she was engaged to be married, but the relationships never seem to work out. None of the men that she has become involved with have been an appropriate match. Some have also had serious emotional problems. Rachel’s attempts to make sense of her interactions with these different men has left her with a lot of confusion and frustration.
Most of the people that show up in my classes are having difficulty in their relationships. Some struggle with patterns of abandonment and unrequited love. Many are in the midst of a painful breakup or divorce. Others are stuck in horrible relationships with partners that hurt and abuse them. But many of these individuals can’t seem to let go of their partners and move on even though their relationships are causing them so much distress. The emotional pain that they haven’t been able to process keeps them locked into a holding pattern that prevents them from letting go of partners and relationships that are not working.
Our technologically advanced society places a high value on intellectual development. We may be intellectually sophisticated and yet we are often stunted in our emotional development. Being stunted emotionally seriously impedes our interpersonal development. That’s why so many of us lack empathy, compassion and the ability to understand ourselves and others. Our emotional — interpersonal deficits greatly limit the extent to which we can form any kind of healthy attachment.
We’ve learned to shut down and disconnect from our feelings and physical bodies from the time we come into this world and that greatly impairs our ability to gain access to and process our feelings. It is through the parts of our body – mind consciousness that experiences feelings and emotions that we form attachments.
We need to be able to process our feelings so that we can know when someone is a good match for us or not. We need to be able to process our feelings so that we can address the issues that arise and bring the conflicts that are a normal part of being in a relationship with another human being to resolution. We need to be able to process emotionally so that we can let go of our attachments to partners that are not healthy. We need to be able to do the deep level emotional processing in order to learn and grow from our interactions with others and form healthy attachments.
Spinning ourselves around in circles
Many people come to my classes expecting to hear a lecture or thinking that they’re going to talk their way out of their suffering. And then they wonder why I have them sitting there with their eyes closed doing meditative practices. We do spend some time discussing the issues and concerns of everyone in attendance. But the primary emphasis is to get people out of their heads and into their bodies by doing the practices that will facilitate healing. I’ve learned through my own experience and that of the many people I’ve worked with. Attempting to think or talk our way out of our heartaches spins us around in circles and that downward spiral keeps reinforcing our suffering.
There is an intellectual component to healing and yet many of us over do it and end up getting stuck in repetitive loops of thought. We can never think or talk their way out of these kinds of dysfunctional relationship patterns. Our attempts to make sense of what’s happening by over-analyzing what’s not working in our relationships keeps generating more fear, anxiety and other painful emotions. The accumulation of these emotions reinforces our dysfunctional patterns.
We can work with a life coach or spend years of our lives and thousands of dollars on psychotherapy. We may come out of our coaching sessions or therapy with “how to strategies” or an intellectual understanding of our suffering and yet the patterns that have caused so much pain and stress in our romantic involvements keep repeating themselves.
I am not in any way saying don’t work with the psychotherapist. Psychotherapy can be a very important part of our individual healing process. I went to psychotherapy for three years and I would sit there talking about what wasn’t working in my life. I gained a much needed intellectual understanding, but it did little to help me do the deep level emotional processing necessary to heal the wounded parts of myself. The same kinds of dysfunctional patterns kept playing out in my relationships. I had to incorporate other practices and resources to facilitate the healing of the deep emotional wounds.
Lack of understanding
Two men and eight women showed up in one of my recent classes. One of the two men spent much of the class processing the grief and emptiness over the death of his wife. The first woman that spoke shared that she had never been able to get back to herself since she broke up with an abusive boyfriend two years ago. She was feeling a deep sadness, along with a sense of being unsafe and unsupported as a result of having lost her boyfriend. A young Malaysian woman revealed that she has been suffering from depression. This woman’s soon to be ex-husband couldn’t deal with her moodiness and lack of engagement. The husband ended up having an affair. This woman’s emotional distress was greatly exacerbated when she discovered that her husband had been unfaithful. She said that her emotional state is constantly fluctuating and that she’s always looking for an escape. A Korean woman told us how angry she was to find her boyfriend texting another woman even thought he was open about the matter and assured her that the other woman was only a platonic friend. She admitted that the feelings of jealousy were making her crazy and that she would sometimes cry, become violent and start hitting her boyfriend.
One of the younger women that attended that night told us that she was scared to let go of the boyfriend she had broken up with nearly a year ago even though he was seeing other women. She was still obsessed with her former love and overwhelmed by feelings of anguish, hurt, jealousy, regret and self-pity. I spent some time looking into her aura afterwards. I could see that she was extremely ungrounded and strung out on her former partner like an addict craving her drug of choice.
None of these individuals knew how to work constructively with their emotions before attending my class. All of them indicated that they felt better after I had them go through the practices. It remains to be seen whether any of them will follow up to do the much needed work that would facilitate the healing of their own woundedness.
People often show up in my classes a time or two and then disappear. It saddens me because I see and feel the fear, pain and confusion held within their bodies. And I can tell by looking at, listening to them and feeling what’s going on within their bodies and minds that they do not possess the understandings or resources that would enable them to fully heal the deep emotional wounds on their own. Many of the same patterns will continue to play out in their relationships. They will most likely attract the same kinds of partners and reenact the dramas of past relationships all over again. And some will just give up on romantic relationships all together.
Most people in our present-day Western culture cannot grasp the kinds of ongoing practice that people in the various ancient spiritual traditions have done for thousands of years to develop their bodies and minds. So many of us lack the discipline and drive that would compel us to do the practices with any kind of regularity. Many of us are also overwhelmed by the demands placed upon us. We’re also finding it difficult to keep our minds focused because our brains have been rewired by our excessive use of technology. We say we don’t have time to devote to intensive practice. But we might be surprised how much time would become available when we cut down on the amount of time we spend surfing the net, playing games and watching television.
As a society, we tend to be very outwardly focused and that’s why we possess such a limited awareness of our own internal state of being. Many of us do not understand our own emotions. We’ve never learned to work constructively with our feelings and have absolutely no conception of the amount of deep emotional processing that is needed to truly facilitate the healing of the wounded parts of ourselves. And many of us are so fearful of going to those wounded places within. This whole range of our body — mind consciousness remains stunted in its development. Our resistance to experiencing the full range of our feelings perpetuates the dysfunctional patterns in our relationships that continue to cause us so much suffering.
Healing can only occur when we do the deep level processing and make use of the resources needed to facilitate the healing of our emotional wounds. Only then can we develop the emotional intelligence that will enable us to create the kinds of healthy and loving attachments that we truly need and desire.
Looking into the mirror
We’re immersed in a culture that operates at the very surface most levels of awareness. Many of us excel in our professional lives, at various creative endeavors and other areas that we’re passionate about. And yet we often feel hurt, lost and deeply confused when it comes to interpersonal matters.
Our relationships serve as a mirror of the conflicted issues and unprocessed emotions that we’re holding within our bodies and minds. Dysfunctional relational patterns such as the inability to commit to or be faithful to another person, unrequited love, abandonment and becoming involved with unstable and abusive partners are all reflections of how deeply wounded we are and the fact that we have failed to develop emotionally. The vast majority of us fail to recognize and make use the opportunities to heal our woundedness that are being presented to us within the context of our relationships.
Much of the population cannot easily access their feelings. Those of us who find it difficult to access to what we’re feeling will have greater difficulty working through conflicting thoughts and feelings. Therefore we cannot understand our own needs, desires and other driving forces working beneath the surface.
We all have a conscious and subconscious mind. The part of us that is conscious is primarily aware of our current set of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations and the environmental input filtering through our sensory channels at any given moment. Our subconscious mind contains all of the hurts, losses, confusion, disappointments, conflicting needs and desires and issues that we have failed to bring to resolution.
Shutting down or avoiding the feelings and issues that we rather not face only widens the gap between our conscious and subconscious minds. Those of us who have shut down emotionally and that have disconnected from the wounded parts of us do not really know ourselves. We cannot possibly understand or be intimate with another person because we are not able to understand or be truly intimate with ourselves. We cannot really see the other person for who they truly are because we are so blinded by our projection. We act out our anger, fear, hurt, insecurity and confusion by saying and doing things that are hurtful to our partner. And for that reason our relationships turn into a series of big messy dramas that involve little learning or growth.
Relationship as a journey of healing and personal growth
Relationships just don’t work very well when we’re deeply wounded …at least not for very long. I used to get so caught up in my own projections that I couldn’t see the women I had developed an attachment to for who they truly were. I would try to get these women’s attention and to get them to reciprocate what I was feeling. In some instances I would unwittingly push to the point to where it made them feel uncomfortable. A few of these women cut me off completely. I was then hit with the reality that my feelings and desire for connection would never be reciprocated. I would then find myself engulfed in this all-consuming pain. And the torturous pattern just kept replaying itself.
I suffered a great deal of abuse during my childhood and adolescence. Much of the drama playing out in my romantic relationships was a reenactment of past trauma. These painful dramas were a reflection of my own woundedness. Nothing changed for the better until I did the work necessary to facilitate the healing of the deep emotional wounds. Facilitating these changes required a tremendous effort. Despite the fact that I’m in a much better space, I continue to see the journey of healing and growth that I began as a lifelong process of transforming my body and mind.
Many years of intensive training in the Chinese Internal Martial Arts of Xin Yi Quan, Baguazhang and Chi Gong with Sifu Li Tai Liang has shown me a side of ancient Chinese culture that is very wise and deeply connected to the forces of creation. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from all of my training is the value of intensive daily practice.
I do hours of intensive practice to develop my body and mind from the time I get out of bed in the morning. I begin with Chi Gong and other forms of Internal Martial Arts practices. And then I’ll do about an hour of a special meditative practice that I’ve developed over the years that helps me to digest what’s going on in my life and any subsequent feelings that arise. Working consistently with these practices helps me to develop a stronger connection with the authentic core residing deep within and the higher power.
I begin the meditative practice by acknowledging whatever is happening within the context of my relationships. From there I’ll direct my attention to what I’m feeling in response to what’s happening and to the parts of my body where the feelings are situated. I then begin to breathe softly and deeply while centering my awareness in the middle of the feelings and sensations that arise.
Processing what I’m feelings in this way enables me to take whatever is happening in my life and use it as fuel for growth. Processing these feelings gives me an intuitive understanding of myself, the person with whom I’m relating and the nature of our interaction. It helps me to communicate more easily and effectively. I’m finding it much easier to bring issues to a place of resolution.
Much of the trauma of my childhood and adolescence was so deeply ingrained within my body and mind. I would have never fully healed these wounds on my own. Deep tissue body work helped to bring the emotions stored in my body up to the surface so that I could process them. I worked with a number of exceptionally powerful healers whenever the opportunity presented itself. I also went on many vision quests, a traditional Native American healing practice that involves going out to fast alone in the mountains for four days and nights without food or water. The healing sessions and vision quests enabled me to build a whole new foundation.
The overall quality of my relationships improved as I began to take the steps to facilitate the healing of the parts of me that were so deeply wounded. The romantic projections began to lose their intensity and dissolve. I then found that I was no longer attracted to unavailable, disingenuous and abusive women or those with whom I did not resonate.
The many years of intensive practice has made me very empathic. I began to feel the presence of the women that I found myself attracted to and the way they reacted or responded to me. I also became more acutely aware of my own feeling and energetic responses to the women with whom I interacted.
There have been many instances since that time where I would approach or engage a woman in conversation when I felt a strong physical attraction. But then I would realize that there was nothing more than physical attraction. I got to a place where I could politely disengage if I felt a lack of resonance or sensed that the woman I was speaking with wasn’t in a good place. At other times I would realize that there was a lot of common ground with the woman that I had been spending time with, but I also had a clear sense that the connection was one of platonic friendship.
I have friends of both genders and yet in many ways I find it easier to relate to women. I most enjoy spending time with sensitive, open-minded, creative, caring and intelligent women that I can learn from. For me, one of the most difficult aspects of living in New York City is the fear and suspicion that many women hold towards men. Sadly, there are significant numbers of badly behaving men in the city that give women legitimate reasons to be concerned for their safety and wellbeing.
There have been instances in which I’ve engaged with women and it was quite obvious that we both enjoyed the interaction and shared many common interests. The potential was there for friendship and possibly something more and yet their fear and mistrust made it difficult for them to be receptive. I have sometimes felt sad about the missed connections, but I’ve found it easier to let go. Some of these same women were more receptive to me when I ran into them at a later date. I’m also noticing that more women are drawn to me and that they feel safer in my presence as I continue to heal and grow.
Relationships are very much a learn as we go process. We will invariably make mistakes along the way. I have at times felt ashamed over the lack of awareness, sensitivity and understanding that I demonstrated the past. Working with the practice I’m describing in this chapter enables me to be more cognizant of the feedback I’m receiving. I’m better able to learn from mistakes and to correct course when necessary and relate in healthier ways.
Having the ability to access and process what I’m feeling adds greater depth and dimension to the interaction while making it possible for me to relate from a place of greater authenticity. Breathing into the feelings and sensations that arise in response to what’s happening in my interactions makes it possible for me to be that much more fully present. I can then use whatever happens within the context of my relationships as fuel for growth. I’ve become more intuitive and empathic and that enables me to be more in tune with the needs and considerations of my partner and other people with whom I engage. And that has resulted in a huge increase in the overall quality of my interactions. I’m also seeing these same kinds of changes taking place within those who have the opportunity to work with me.
Cultivating emotional Intelligence
The practices I’m teaching in my classes of becoming fully present to any feelings or bodily sensations that arise in response to what’s happening in one’s personal interactions cultivate emotional intelligence. Breathing into the feelings and sensations as they arise awakens the innate healing intelligence residing within the body and mind. This healing intelligence facilitates a process of “digestion.” Whatever happens within the context of one’s relationship can then be used as fuel for growth.
I sometimes feel as though my hands are tied when I’m sitting in front of the class room. I see and feel the extent to which people are wounded as I’m looking into their bodies and minds. In many instances the wounding is so extensive that it cannot possibly be healed by practice alone. These individuals need serious intervention to facilitate the healing that would not otherwise be possible. It’s very unfortunate that the majority of those in attendance have absolutely no understanding of the healing practices of the Native Americans and other ancient traditional cultures. And therefore they have absolutely no sense of what’s truly possible.
Native American’s didn’t have access to the kinds of modern medical interventions that people in today’s world depend upon. They lived out in the wild and learned to rely upon the forces of nature. It was a fairly common practice among many of tribes for people to go out to fast alone in the mountains without food or water for four days and nights. Many of these individuals received various gifts and healing capabilities. The traditional native doctors would allow other forces or beings to work through them to facilitate healing within the body and mind that would not have otherwise been possible.
Some of the more gifted traditional Native American doctors went on the vision quest many times over the course of their lives. At some point towards the end of their lives they would transmit portions of their power to a younger apprentice. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a number of years training with one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Since that time I have furthered my development by going on many of the vision quests.
The presence working through me during the individual sessions facilitates the healing of the deep emotional wounds associated with patterns of abandonment and unrequited love. The emotions become more manageable as the grief and other painful feelings associated with a breakup, divorce or death of a loved one are diffused and then digested. Changes taking place within the biochemical makeup and neurostructure of the brain and the building of the infrastructure consisting of the chakras and layers of the aura create greater mental — emotional stability and a sense of well-being. Those who have the opportunity to work with me become more firmly rooted in their bodies. Their connection to the authentic core residing deep within and the higher power grows much stronger. The profound awakening that takes place within the body and mind provides tremendous insight and understanding into the patterns that have played out in one’s relationships. The changes resulting from these sessions also make it possible to attract healthier companions and create more fulfilling relationships.
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Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.