The courage to feel – the path to peace in the world

You might think that you don’t need courage to feel, that “feeling” is something natural and you just feel what you feel. Well, yes and no. Most of us are longing to feel joy and happiness and run away into distractions of all kinds as soon as unwanted feelings present themselves. Alcohol is a means of eradicating negative feelings and, as we all know, our societies drink a lot. Doesn’t that mean that we don’t want to meet our negative feelings? That we don’t have the courage to face them, directly, and find out what they want to tell us?

During the last weekend, I attended a conference about the “Courage to Feel” in Berlin and we addressed those feelings which are buried in the shadow of our country, those feelings which we try to avoid and which we fear to feel. Beginning at the personal level it turns out that newbies have a hard time to just look right into the eyes of another person for a few minutes. What comes up often is awkwardness, fear, shame and all sorts of thoughts which want to convince us to turn away our eyes. We fear the intimacy which arises when we REALLY look closely and attentively at something for a certain period of time. And we fear the feeling of intimacy with a person we have never seen before.

Power – the eternal predicament

The  exercises we did were all about becoming conscious of what is going on inside, the feelings and the thoughts around them, and to bring all that into the context of us and our nation, Germany, which is confronted with the huge challenge of taking over leadership in the world again while still carrying the shadows of the past. We are aware that POWER WITHOUT LOVE leads to violence. We are also aware that our nation holds power and has a huge conflict with that fact. And we are aware that we need to heal the past in order to avoid a repetition of history.

Hitler – a symbol for severe abuse of power

Germany has recognized the guilt for what it has caused in the 20th century, but we Germans, collectively, have not yet transformed the guilt into the power of positive change. We haven’t integrated our shadows and made available the positive force which appears when completing this process. The true liberation from guilt and shame, which is still haunting us up to the fourth generation is needed for Germany to be able to use its strength and power to become an inspiring leader in the world, to co-create a world community which leaves behind ethnocentric behaviors and embraces the human existence as what it is: a unique whole where everyone and everything is connected, where no one can win at the cost of others because it will impact them as well.

The victim – perpetrator cycle

war memorial
Soldiers are victims of the system and perpetrators by command. An unresolvable conflict for the soul.

We know from psychology that the victims become perpetrators and vice versa – and we see it everywhere. The perpetrator is haunted by what he has done and/or gets victimized by the other side as soon as the situation changes. Permanent winners do not exist; this is an illusion. It is time that we all understand that and therefore work towards a world which doesn’t know “winners”. and “losers”, but only human beings who collaborate to create the best future possible for everyone,

But how can that become possible? The only true answer is: Become yourself a full and grown up human being. That means, first of all, get to know yourself well, on a very deep level. Learn about your hidden motivations, your conditioning and learn to feel fully how your body feels, how your emotions move you, what your unobserved habits are.

What we need to learn

Your thoughts and feelings, what quality and direction do they have?  Are you fearful and suppress the fear instead of feeling it? Do you become aggressive instead? Or do you freeze in the face of fear and challenge?  If you don’t know well your feelings and the consequent thoughts and behavior patterns you have very little chance to meet the problems of life in an adequate manner. You will try to manipulate the world in order to avoid these feelings if you are a private person or the President of the United States. You will be a part of the problem, not of the solution.

The courage to feel

The organizers of the conference welcome the participants
“Mut zum Fühlen” – The courage to feel: Beginning scene of the conference in Berlin

In Berlin, we worked on it in depth, in personal exercises, and in a mega constellation to heal the wounds of the Nazi regime. I had the role of “frozen feelings”, a behavioral and psychological pattern people often adopt to protect themselves in horrible situations – and which allows them to terribly mistreat others as they cannot feel their pain and meet it instead with contempt. During the 2 hour process, I realized I was finally melting, a transformation was taking place.

I hope that this work will liberate the frozen energies in so many of us who are afflicted with the same pattern, knowingly or not. I am sure that 130 people at the conference, doing this incredibly deep healing work, have added a piece to the big puzzle of the liberation of humanity from the everlasting oscillations between conflicts and wars on one side and “helpless hope” toward a different future of peace and harmony.

The freedom to generate the right decisions

If we really want to create peace in the world then the future needs to be built on solid ground where we humans explore deeply our human nature, embracing our inner parts, including the victim and the perpetrator and all the others, and become able to freely decide to choose as opposed to being driven by uncontrollable emotions into destructive behaviors to the detriment of all.

Fifty years later: Making Peace with Christianity

My personal experience with religion

I left the Lutheran Church at 21 after I had lost my faith at 14 because of a minister who was a total failure, unable to respond properly to the questions of a mind that was entering into rational thinking. He certainly isn’t the only one, then or now, who have not the least ability to awaken and maintain the interest of young (and older) people in the transcendent reality. Otherwise, religion and Christianity wouldn’t be so denigrated and undervalued in the West as it presently is.

I am coming to a deep understanding of my roots embedded in Christianity now, after 50 years, thanks to a person who can explain these things in ways that people grounded in rationality can understand and realize with awe that we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. There are so many things to discover which help us understand ourselves and the world as it presents itself today!

Children like the biblical stories!

Drawing Biblical stories
Biblical stories

Like many children, I was attracted by the biblical stories. They were fantastic, like fairy tales, and children adore this kind of thing. At 12 I had to go to the preparation lessons for the confirmation, an initiation ritual of the Protestant Church which you don’t want to miss as a child. For the first time in life everything is about YOU, relatives from all parts of the country come together in their best clothes, they watch you when you “perform” in the service where your heart beats when being officially admitted in the congregation of the adults, and, well, the many gifts you get that day. I got enough money that day to buy a tape recorder, those huge and heavy things which were the technical highlight then. So no wonder that I didn’t really have the choice to not go to the preparation lessons although I disliked them and the minister. The previous excitement about the Bible turned into aversion and the desire to get away from all that and as far as possible.

Goodbye to Religion

What was intended the first day of belonging to the religious community turned out to be my one and only day there. Many years later I led the choir of the German church in Rome. When, after a long time, they found out that I was not an official member of their church I was pushed to become one again. I compromised myself by doing it in order to be able to continue my job there, but the negativity I felt as a 14-year-old arose again, strongly. It certainly didn’t foster my relationship to religion and Christianity and it continued to keep me in ignorance about the foundations of the religion.

Christianity is at the root of our Western Culture!

During my early adulthood, Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation became a fashion among us “different” people. It seemed to be normal to become a Buddhist but I always hesitated. It didn’t feel right to me, although I couldn’t articulate why not. Later, in the 90ies, I began to learn meditation and many other “esoteric” modalities. It was very useful for many reasons. I had been very interested in Psychology and only very slowly did I discover my yearning for Spirituality. But still, the fashion was Eastern Spirituality. Western religion seemed old and odd and had nothing really to offer which could have attracted me.

Detail in a volt
Art born in Christianity

Nonetheless, I was sure that, whenever I would dive deeper into religious thought or belief, it would only be possible with Christianity. It has completely formed my culture, we Westerners have breathed it in from birth, if not with “church” so with all the achievements of our culture, from art to music, philosophy, science, architecture, everything. Adopting another cultural system seemed interesting but certainly, wouldn’t bring me to my roots. How could it.

Making Peace with Christianity

So I remained “homeless” religion-wise until I discovered Jordan Peterson. He gives me back my religion. He can explain the things in a way which makes complete sense to me without returning to “belief” as the traditional religions do. He is opening my mind to an understanding which really blows me away and leads me to a deep gratitude towards our ancestors and their relentless attempt to reach understanding and wisdom – by telling stories.

This is what helped me to integrate my culture more fully

The awe started in the first talk of his lectures on the Bible called: Introduction to the Idea of God. God is an idea, not a “reality” of any kind, let alone the old man with a beard sitting on the cloud.

Video Cover on Youtube
Jordan Peterson’s first lecture: 337.000views in only 3 weeks! People yearn for this message!

And yet, I began to understand why “He” is represented this way: it is the attempt of wise people in their time to tell a story which couldn’t be articulated in any rational ways. Rationality had not yet emerged, as we know from integral theory. This happened in the Renaissance fully, but the Bible is so much older than that and needed another way of explaining: telling a mythological story.

I certainly cannot summarize with half a paragraph a 2-hour lecture and maybe for you, something else stands out when you watch it. But I want to tell you about another big insight I received when listening to the third lecture: Christianity seems to be based on different principles than Buddhism. So far, to me, both seemed to be completely different. InGod and the Hierarchy of Authority” Jordan Peterson comes to a description of the Trinity in Christianity which seems to match the basics of Buddhism. He defines the three elements in the Trinity as such: “God” is the infinite space of possibility from which all form arise (the ground of being which I heard mention so often in meditation practices). The “Holy Spirit” is Consciousness itself and “Christ, the Son of God” is Consciousness in its specific form in space and time, the embodiment of possibility.

Understanding what we have ignored – a huge gift!

I hope I got that right with these few words. Listening to Jordan Peterson’s thoughts is a continuous “click, click” in my understanding, and history is opening up to me in an unexpected way. I begin to appreciate the past, the endless endeavor of humankind to understand life and how best to live it. The dismissal of previous times which is an underlying thread in our Western world, the arrogant feeling of absolute superiority of our present world, which declassifies everything else as “primitive”, has been dismantled and transformed into recognition and appreciation of the past. We are the result of thousands and millions of years of endless attempts to evolve a culture where we humans can find meaning for our lives on earth. We don’t just “begin” with our birth as a blank slate where we can write our life story at our own individual will. “It is more complicated than that”, using Jordan Peterson’s words. We, modern people, want to have everything easy and simple. But life is not like that. And striving for the easy button and believing that we are separate entities, independent from others, from the past and future and only existent in our physical reality deprives us of the richness of existence and the depth of experience. And most likely it causes us to fall into deep pits because of our self-induced blindness towards the complexity of existence.

Presently we humans dwell near the border of a self-created abyss. If we continue to ignore the lessons of the past as well as reality which is not based purely on the material world but which includes the invisible and transcends our being, we have a good chance to fall into that abyss and we will have a very hard time finding our way out again. Maybe hundreds or other thousands or millions of years depends on how good we are in understanding the real threat we are facing: the destruction of our culture without envisioning any alternative. Humans are capable of total destruction, you and me and everyone else. Unless we dig deep into our own psychology and understand this force in ourselves, we inevitably act it out in the opportune moments without then having the possibility to stop what we are doing.

Wordcloud with important words for growing up
Speaking the truth – important for all aspects of life

We need to grow up and to wake up to the whole reality of being in this world. Deliberately ignoring one part or the other leads to any sort of fundamentalism with all its destructive powers. We need to learn and understand and hold the space for multiple perspectives. Then we need to step up and speak “the truth” about what we see and understand. No longer believing in doctrines and ideas which transform us into “innocent” and ignorant sheep, victims of who knows who. And seeing the Bible and Christianity with new eyes we can learn our ancient innate knowledge about the psychology of humans – which hasn’t changed very much, after all, during the last some thousand years.