Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hidden Behind Our Masks: It’s About The Humanity

Barely a day goes by that I am without conscious intent to stop hiding behind a mask. I wear a thousand of them and all of them are me. Each and every day I do my best to present the authentic me. Try as I might, succeeding better and better as my skill improves, still I more frequently than not miss the mark, aware that what I have presented is still not the full, true, straightforward, heart-connected me.

In her article entitled “We need to stop masking our pain,” Whitney Houston’s friend, Terrie M. Williams, laments her dear one’s passing. A whole world of family, friends and fans mourned the loss. Whitney was gone, leaving untold lessons behind for all who loved her, including those who were feeding off of a talent and beauty that masked great pain. But there was not enough of some unknown something to save this exemplary womanhood, this magical potion of gifted and seemingly blessed humanity, Williams continues. So now she is gone.

Ms. Williams offers solace from her own experiences with an especial emphasis on the healing of her weekly appointments with her therapist, identifying this as her lifeline. It was with this brand of consolation that she lost me though the title of her article warning that we need to “stop masking the pain” engaged me at my deepest level. I take issue with this, the dependency on a paid professional for a person’s most significant human connection.

Unfortunately, too often that is all the humanity there is available, not because we need more highly trained personnel, but rather, we need more who are adept at simply being human. Even the privileged are stuck with the lack of human beings, simply knowing the art of being human. So we wear our masks, pretending that our surface is what we are when truly beneath that surface dwells someone who is confused, often even suffering greatly.

I ended almost a quarter of a century as a psychotherapist in 1998 when I lost my eyesight. But I was heading in that direction anyway when the licensing in my state for professional counselors changed, just months before. Though it would not have taken much in the way of paperwork to ensure my “grandfathering in” of that officialdom, a prolonged resistance to participating in the process, already in motion, deterred my efforts.

In the years since, I have, not infrequently, thought of writing a pamphlet on the hundred or more reasons I do not want to do therapy anymore. Among these is my criticism of a society, such as our’s, that seeks to rely on paid professionals for the essentials of humanity; human connectedness, unmasked and vulnerable. But right now we are stuck, as a consequence of our various systems with the same old, same old; the power and money brokers controlling the flow of this commodity to those who might even be most in need of it.

Yes, I was burned out. And, yes the insurance coverage game, heralding in the PPOs and the HMOs, was putting a snag in the offering of these services, as I had been trained and come to know them. But there were several other important reasons behind my procrastination. I may address them at a later time. Nonetheless, a third reason seems to have come, over the years, to matter most to me.

Therapeutic community work opened my eyes to the essential need for everyone to have access to skill-based, even artful, caring and compassion from others without it having to be paid human contact, i.e. professional counseling or psychotherapy. Running a therapeutic community is the work I did for most of my twenty-five years plus as a psychotherapist. I cannot imagine anything that could ever be more gratifying, for me, than being a part of people transforming their own lives, individually and collectively, and then being able to pass their abundance on to others. The Twelve Step people do it, how about the rest of us?

By the time I lost my eyesight, I had already stopped wanting to work with the problems I saw. I no longer had the heart, nor the energy, to work with the worst case scenarios; adult wounds of child abuse, relationship addictions and domestic violence issues. Actually, as a provider I, personally, needed more of the community connectedness I was building for others.

Yet it was still a few years into my term of blindness and recovery from blindness (1998 – 2006) before I came to realize that what I wanted instead was to use the skills I had developed in my years as a therapist to find new and improved ways by which to make our society a better place to live, lifting up the most likely to contribute, believing that, then, they would pass on their bounty to others. Though providing this, as it has turned out, has been a rough road to hoe, especially with the financial burdens being blind brought into my life, nothing could ever be more fulfilling for me.

What brought my leanings in this new direction to its heights was my meeting with Murat Yagan in the first year after I lost my eyesight. It was Murat who brought the certainty into my life that we can, intentionally, co-create that sense of awe in our communities that can make a difference to people in all walks of life wherever they are, worldwide. We do have the essentials to support the well being of one another and save many more lives than we now allow ourselves to consider. If we will stretch our humanity beyond the constraints too many of us are putting on the simplest aspects of it. Then the true unmasking can come forth; midnight at the masqueraders ball of humanity. What a celebration that would be!

Perhaps our Bus Ride Story Adventure series can contribute to this effort by helping guide and train ordinary citizens, closer to the top of the ladder, to overcome their own areas of alienation and social divisiveness and thus free up human resources to provide more for this vast need. Not simply for the disadvantaged, but for those who simply want to be that possible human in a possible society and pass that on. Those seeking a depth, a breadth and a height of community connectedness that spells, not only the survival of beautiful and talented beings such as Whitney Houston who seemed to have everything, but somehow not enough of some unknown something still needed.

I do not pretend to know how to have saved this one life. However, I learned growing up from the elders of my heritage that to save one life is to save the world. I strongly believe that real people support, i.e. simply passing on the art, the skill and the wisdom of being human, with all the inherent challenges in today’s world is as critical in our times as it was in the past. God is not enough, but people with that Power could make a huge difference. At least so I believe.

More to come on the importance of building exceptional communities.

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