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From the Holidays to the Elections . . . What Do You See in the Mirror?

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One more week and the holidays are over for this year. Then come eleven plus months m-o-r-e of elections. What do the holidays and the elections have in common?

The holidays -- representing passage from darkness into light -- hold for us an up-close- and-personal mirror of our deepest wounds and pains, our defenses meant to guard against the pain, and our calling to heal.

The holidays trigger us . . . more than most of us consciously know. Some do utilize this time for healing, digging deep within to find the roots of our joy and pain and doing the inner work to go through the feelings for healing and transformation from the inside out. But some turn themselves to giving, hoping that giving to others will take away their own deep pain. And some look for other quick fixes, trying to get rid of the pain, if only momentarily. Many just pretend to be celebratory during the holidays. Many distortedly insist we should pretend, that if we just pretend it will come to be true. And many don't want to or can't pretend anymore, and feel the pain the holidays evoke for them, without knowing what to do to harness that pain for healing.

An example may help here. For Merv, like many others, the holidays are an agonizing extension of his whole family experience. They're a mirror of his having not been welcomed to be himself in his family, in little ways and big. He was teased for his open heart when he cried if someone was mean to him or his siblings, or if he saw a hurt animal. He was ridiculed if he was still and silent, trying to keep himself from crying. So when, at the holidays, he was taunted for being a 'downer' and a 'party pooper' . . . Merv experienced even more pain, because the season was one more thing being misused to let him know his real self was not welcome.

Now, as an adult, Merv has a choice this holiday season . . . and every day. He can stack up the times people don't welcome who he is and use them to prove to himself that he will never be welcome, and use that proof to keep from being himself, thereby re-enacting his family experience. Or, he can find a therapist who can help him harness his pain, his experience, his "proof" and other clues, and utilize them for deep, real, sustainable healing. And if he sticks with the healing work, he can come out the other side being and welcoming himself, and drawing to him people who also welcome the real Merv.

We all need to ask and answer for ourselves the question . . . Will I look into the mirror the holidays offer me and see what's being evoked for me and is crying out to be healed? Will I follow through and do the inner work I'm being called to do within myself?

As we move through the holidays toward the new year, we're moving toward a continuation of the election season . . . another outer series of events that hold up a mirror to our deep, inner selves, our wounds, our defenses, and all that we're being called to heal. Some will utilize this mirror to respond to the healing call. Most, not understanding there's a mirror, will simply do what they do in response to the ramp-up to the elections. It is, however, vital to us individually and communally that we understand.

Whatever political affiliation, there are leaders and campaigners for leadership whose unhealed wounds are being acted out on the national and world stage. If we support, vote for, and even justify these people -- consciously or blindly -- it says more than we can imagine about our own woundedness.

What wounding in us is mirrored when we vote for a leader who . . . was unfaithful to his marriage vows; broke his commitment while attacking others for doing the same; sexually harassed and/or demeaned women; lied in open and hidden ways; stole money, property, trust; was openly racist, anti-religious, homophobic, gender biased; abused his/her power as a way of life.

Another example . . . Susan, like many, was charmed by the charismatic contender for the presidency, idealizing, brushing off, denying his history of deceit, broken commitments, power abuse. Not knowing why she was such a staunch supporter, she just felt she had to believe in him. If she would only look in the mirror and see the truth beneath her support, she would see a little girl who felt she had to believe in her father, despite his lies, broken trust, and abuse . . . as a defense against the pain of what was happening in her family. And if she would look in the mirror, she could heal her own wounds, and help to heal those of our nation.

We all need to ask and answer for ourselves the question . . . Will I look into the mirror the elections offer me and see what's being evoked for me and is crying out to be healed? Will I follow through and do the inner work I'm being called to do within myself? Or will I contribute to my life and the life of my country by acting out my woundedness through my involvement or lack of involvement in the election process . . . just like those running for office?

© Judith Barr, 2011