Jean De Salzmann’s “The Reality of Being”

It is the work of therapy that resolves many of our emotional, and thereby intellectual as well as physical, ‘tensions’. The work of therapy is all about making our suffering conscious. The trauma (pain, distress, fear etc.) we have buried is supported to be faced and accepted and in doing so our wounds are acknowledged, felt and healed over time.

It is this that makes all the difference to being able to live closer to presence, to holding ourselves closer to the energy of sensation, to self-awareness, self-observation and self-remembering. There is still work to do in facing our automatic, compulsive selves, still effort to be made in really taking responsibility for ourselves, and in finding our authentic wish to be. But the point here is that the self-knowledge that therapy brings makes this task possible as opposed to it being almost impossible when there are lots of un-aware and un-reconciled compulsive feelings driving us to remain avoidant in an entirely mechanical way.

The ego is strong when the needs behind my un-reconciled trauma is strong. Then I don’t stand a chance of remaining in touch with sensation and being, or at least if I do through some special circumstances (a retreat, or special training of some sort) it is far from permanent.

Therapy is then a preparation for the work of transformation of energy within the self that De Salzmann discusses. Emotional healing means that I am more relaxed and authentically self-confident (because I know myself there is not so much left to fear), but there is still the task of tuning into my underlying need for transformation into a more consciousness way of being. The task is of confronting the force towards ‘sleep‘ from my habitual ways of being.

It seemed to me that many in the ‘Gurdjieff Work’ tried to run before they can walk. The mistake is to see the compensatory wish for change as an authentic wish to be. If the wish comes from wanting to escape without having to face deeply held trauma, then those people are condemned to go around in circles. Which is was certainly what I did and I don’t think I was alone.

Un-reconciled trauma always turns us against ourselves, it means that we are caught in “victim mode”, caught with an underlying belief in our inadequacy, in ‘badness’ and in fear. This in turn inevitably means we are also cursed with the other end of this narcissistic stick too, which is a sense of superiority and judgement and arrogance.

So the ego needs to heal before we have a chance of staying close enough, for long enough, with an authentic non-compensatory wish to ‘be’ (with, as De Salzmann says, “sincerity”), for transformation to have a chance. She explains so well how it is this deeper wish for consciousness itself that has to be present to enable a permanent transformation to the next “stage of consciousness” (Wilber) to take place. Our wish needs to come not from compulsion, but from deep self-responsibility and opening, from answering the authentic call to Being in the depth of our self, which is always there in some form.

As De Salzmann says, our wish has to also come from love, “toward inner rebirth, it is the true feeling of love that enables”(p259) this transformation to be possible. Healing the ego is about going through the middle of our trauma, facing the very depth of the hurt and fear of our insecurity. From my therapeutic perspective it is this that can open our hearts sufficiently for us to find a more objective love, with its compassion for self and other.

I feel close to this wish. I want to find freedom from my compulsiveness, I want to live closer to my sensation and energy and presence. I want to find my freedom from the cycle of defeat (archaic patterns of deficit) with its trying again and again after getting caught into some form of ‘giving up’ (I have long learnt to forgive myself for this, blame is far beside the point). But tiredness has long been my Achilles heel, so being able to bear tiredness with my presence intact is a core challenge. Related to this is also my relationship to hunger and food, with the challenge of being able to bear being hungry and not over eating as a compensation for tiredness.

Is it that I need more therapeutic insight in these areas? Or is it down to deepening my wish and taking more self-responsibility? This is a good question. I sense the latter is the case now, after integrating so much therapy I feel quite close, my heart feels open … I feels like I’m in an experiment at the moment … so, we shall see.