When we are willing to share and process our inner life with a trusted therapist, we experience a genuine emotional relief of what weighs us down. As the inner journey of therapy proceeds, we soon realize that while our challenges are very personal, our existence is also weaved in a complex web of interactions and influences with the people and culture we are/were a part of. The place, era and expectations of our family and culture of origin; the impact of our extended family and culture at large at the different stages of growing up; the political, religious/spiritual and financial influences which affected us; the major setbacks and often unspoken adverse experiences we never talked about; not to mention our genetics and temperamental predispositions.
Continued from Newsletter…
There are as many grain of sand in this suitcase as there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy! Our Sun is only one out of these hundred of thousands of other grain of sands!
One of the many benefits of a therapeutic journey is to help us gain a better perspective and a deeper meaning of our life experiences. This journey allows us to release and cleanse our pent-up emotions, which for many of us, never had a safe outlet to be experienced and felt. It also permits to consciously and safely challenge our core beliefs developed along the way. This therapeutic undertaking encourages us to consciously shed the roles and masks, which do not serve us anymore and, in so doing, give us more freedom to honor who we are at our core. In essence, therapy allows us to reframe our existence into a more accurate, embodied and empowering narrative, so that we can be better aligned with who we really are, and therefore have greater agency in our lives.
What I have described above is summed up by the phrase often used in psychology, an Existential Reframe. So, what does a psychological journey leading to new reframes have to do with being mindful of our cosmic address? In short, cognitive and emotional reframes allow us to challenge maladaptive, disturbing and irrational thoughts and feelings. Reframes allow us to consider more realistic, adaptive and resilient ways of thinking and feeling about ourselves, our challenges and the people in our lives. Described differently, a selfie with just a person or very few people and a limited background in the picture—a narrow perspective which cuts off much of what is also happening around us in that moment—is, while a totally valid way to capture a special moment, also a limited way to share and remember a moment in time. Taking the same picture with a wider aperture allows for a greater perspective of all that is also going on at that very moment. This reframe of the same event includes more information and richness to that picture. Again, it’s not about right or wrong, or better or worse. This is about our ability for perspective taking. Remembering our cosmic address can be, for many of us, the ultimate exercise of perspective taking. An empowering way to keep our current challenges and painful difficulties, as well as our greatest achievements and successes in a wider framed aperture.
I am not suggesting we do a pendulum swing and totally avoid or deny our human successes and struggles by only anchoring ourselves in cosmic perspective. While it is practically impossible for most of us to wrap our heads around our cosmic address, doing a pendulum swing in cosmic awareness would also be tantamount to a cosmic bypass: “I don’t want to feel and experience the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ of my humanity, so I’m going to totally polarize my attention in a perspective which drastically diminishes its importance and reality.” Let’s be honest, life has its ways to rapidly summoning us back to earth. Think bumper-to-bumper traffic in rush hours, coffee spills on your new shirt or dress, challenging religious or political conversations with family members or Facebook friends. For most of us, these and countless other situations instantly bring us back in our narrow and focused (selfie) human perspective.
If we are to overcome our challenges and evolve into a bigger version of ourselves, we all, for the most part, need to do the hard work of reevaluating our current and past assumptions, challenge our core beliefs and allow for our emotional life to be felt and processed in a safe and fruitful way. We need to regularly reframe what we take for granted. Remembering our cosmic address can allow for a reframe, which encompasses both an awareness of our cosmic dimension AND of our human reality. Both are true and coexist at the same time, right now, right here. And it has been so for more than 4.5 billion years, when the earth first got its cosmic address. Talk about perspective taking!
Allowing ourselves to have a wider perspective allows us to reinforce what is often referred to as the internal Witness. Our ability to observe, like the lens of a camera, what is happening as it is happening, without judgment of good or bad, better or worse, likes or dislikes. Just observe what is as it is! The internal Witness also brings another dimension specific to human beings and some mammals, our ability to be curious and benevolent, kind, gentle and loving. While our ability for self-awareness comes with different filters, let us not confuse It with our internal Judge or inner Critic, who do exactly as their name attest, judge others or criticize us. The internal Witness doesn’t have any such filters, except that of being compassionate and caring, all-the-while still being able to see what is without distortion or delusion. In other words, the internal Witness is the cleanser of the lens with compassion and curiosity!
It is well documented that those who practice engaging their inner Witness on a regular/daily basis can change, and honestly evolve, more rapidly than those who don’t. They literally increase their ability to move more freely in different perspective taking. When we think of it, it makes total sense. By being self-aware of our inner life and external actions, we gain greater power to navigate our internal and external world. When we increase our ability to be more caring for ourselves we also, ipso-facto, increase our ability and willingness to be more caring towards others, and ultimately for ALL inhabitants of our blue planet at large. Engaging with our inner Witness accelerates our move from an egocentric mentality (I care only for myself) and an ethnocentric mentality (I care only for my tribe, my country, my nation… and what I am identified to), to a worldcentric mentality (I care for all human beings, regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, creed, etc.) towards an cosmocentric mentality (I care for all beings without exception).
Earth photographed by Voyager 1, on February 14, 1990 from a distance of more than 4 billion miles.
In a time in history when narcissistic tendencies (egocentric and ethnocentric) is as prevalent as ever, having a practice of perspective taking might be one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, our family, friends and ‘foes’, and ultimately our planet and ALL of its inhabitants. May we all have the courage and dedication to consider a cosmic perspective, all the while honoring healthy boundaries, which include egocentric, ethnocentric and worldcentric!
C. Nathan Bergeron, LMFT, L.Ac. ©