Dr. Mike Obsatz, Professor Emeritus at Macalester College
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Trustworthy Longterm Consistent Mentoring: The Antidote to Empire Consciousness, Childhood Trauma, Oppression, Abuse and Abandonment
Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey have written a book about childhood trauma called "What Happened to You?" One of the problems with early childhood trauma is that it changes the victim's brain chemistry. There is a fear of abandonment, a mistrust of life, a protection of one's fragile vulnerability that comes when one is been unloved, abandoned and hurt badly as a small child. This emotional wounding is not easily cured.
Trust is the cornerstone of maturity and healthy risk-taking. Iyla Van Sant has written about four kinds of trust -- trust in self, trust in others, trust in God, and trust in life itself. When this trust is eroded due to early trauma, it is challenging to regain it.
There is also cross-generational trauma. If one's ancestors have been persecuted, abused, oppressed, and marginalized, this emotional trauma is passed on from one generation to the next affecting the body and the brain. Many minorities who were enslaved, hunted, or killed carry this historical trauma experience into the present.
Whenever there is Empire Consciousness, there is always the consequence of trauma. Empire Consciousness requires hierarchy, domination, power and control over others -- especially those who are seen as "different." All bullying is the result of Empire Consciousness and leads to fear, anger, rage, and shame. Desire for control and self-protection is the natural response to trauma and abandonment. This leads depression, isolation, loneliness, and fear.
Building a trusting relationship takes time and matching of those who are ready to show vulnerability and reveal personal pain. If one is going to overcome the suffering and torture of abandonment and abuse, gradual opening up is required. Mentoring by a consistent, loving and trustworthy older person is one way that abused and abandoned people can overcome their trauma. Abraham Maslow said that safety is our first primary need.
When one is traumatized very young, he or she does not learn skills such as coping and discernment. Interpersonal communication, emotional openness, and understanding the complexity of life's circumstances come when one has been loved, supported, and guided into mature adulthood.
So -- traumatized people lack developmental skills and coping mechanisms. They are so fear-motivated that they don't learn to love themselves and trust that they will be all right. Empire Consciousness continues the idea that only those who come out on top will be all right. There is not enough for everyone, and some people will just have to suffer and do without. Scarcity thinking produces hoarding and scarcity becomes a reality.
Oneness Consciousness is the solution to such overwhelming pain and suffering. In order to love one's child, one must love oneself, and see the beauty and glory in everyone else. Mature parenting comes when one has been loved and guided as a child, or when one has worked hard to overcome early childhood trauma and re-wire brain chemistry.
We need mentoring programs for wounded children and adults that explore these issues, and screen carefully for loving, trustworthy, and mature mentors.
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Grace means that we are loved by God unconditionally. Grace means that we are forgiven for our misguided actions--before they occur, when they occur, and after they occur.
Grace means that we are totally accepted for who we are, and we don't need to earn it. If we can feel this acceptance and love, we are free from having to conform to a worldly norm of beauty, success, or accomplishment.
When we live in grace, we can accept others, love them even though they are imperfect, challenging or self-absorbed.
Grace is related to being gracious, and living in gratitude . Grace is a sign of open-heartedness, and compassion.
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This is the season of shopping, buying, and spending. Commercialized Christmas has become the norm in America. Getting stuff, giving stuff, and wanting stuff.
Enough about stuff.
What really matters is compassion, connection, listening, loving, and being present. Our presence is the ultimate present. Nothing matters more than that.
What does it mean to be present for someone else.
It means spending time, energy and caring about someone is really doing, on the inside.
Empathy is valuing other people enough to care about their well-being. It is sitting with, holding a hand, giving a smile, and supporting the journey of another.
Oneness consciousness is about seeing the connection among all of creation. It means advocating for the oppressed. It means supporting those in need. It means truly being oneself and paying deep attention to others' needs and feelings.
Empire consciousness, on the other hand, is about domination, power, prestige, rank control, judgment, fear, and separation.
Jesus' message was to move to a "higher" state of being, of consciousness, and not be mired in worldly chatter, external power and prestige and shallow words.
It is interesting how "King of Kings," "Lord Over All" and "Prince of Peace" have become the descriptors of the One who taught that there are no kings, lords, or princes in God's eyes.
Could it be that the world doesn't really understand the deeper meaning of the Jesus message? God is love, life is a miracle, and our purpose to share, love, and connect.
You can't stuff that in a box.
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The Spiritual Meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas
Thanksgiving is a time when we slow down and appreciate all of our blessings. It is a holiday of gratitude. However, it is also important to remember that British people stole the land they claimed was theirs from Native Americans, in true Empire Consciousness fashion.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, and the reminder about Oneness Consciousness. It is a time to enjoy family and friends, and live in the knowing that love and compassion are the only to ways to true joy and peace.
We celebrate these holidays by spending time with loved ones, eating together and exchanging gifts. However, the greatest gifts of these holidays are Gratitude and Oneness Consciousness. We can't buy them in stores at the mall. They come from inside ourselves, when we connect spiritually and emotionally.
Connection is the the Ultimate Gift of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Connection to self, to others, to Spirit. This Connection is crucial for our well-being, and the well-being of the planet.
How do we make amends to Native Americans for forcibly taking over their land? What kind of justice have they received?
It seems that we can live in Gratitutde and Compassion with all of creation by being mindful of our own behavior and being aware of Empire Consciousness of those who are in power. Do we share what we have with others? Do we try to help those who have been persecuted and oppressed? To we see the Christ Spirit, the Divinity, in every person, no matter their appearance, background, or beliefs?
The birth of Jesus is about the birthing of Oneness Consciousness. Thanksgiving is about remembering those who suffered and the hands of others in power. These are spiritual holidays, not commercial enterprises. They are about internal awareness rather than outward appearances.
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Life is pretty amazing. I turned 80 today -- and it feels surreal. Just yesterday I was young, raising my three kids. Now, I have 5 grandchildren ages 3 - 12.
I remember the hard times, and how lonely and sad I felt. Growing up on a farm, working every day, being bullied at school -- these circumstances seemed very challenging to me. I don't know how I made it through.
Married 3 times. Each time, I had my reasons. My reasons changed over the years, and I am grateful I got to start over. Endings were not easy -- but they needed to happen.
I have succeeded in many ways. Got a Ph.D. at 25. Taught for 40 years at a reputable college.
Published three books, one of them winning the Minnesota Book Award and the Catholic Press Association Award.
I have led numerous men's and boys' groups. I have presented 300 or more workshops on shame, male socialization issues, spirituality, healing, and transformation.
So -- all these successes. All these opportunities. All this overcoming.
And I am in pretty good health. My doctors and pharmacists know my name, and always help me cope with any health issues.
I have 40 good friends. I have known several of them for 20 - 48 years.
So -- what have I learned? Here are a few items to note:
Be grateful for the good stuff.
Put out the good stuff as much as possible and let go of the results.
Stop caring about what others think of you.
Don't expect perfection -- from yourself or others
Grieve all the sadness in the world.
See yourself as a walking miracle.
Forgive everyone, including yourself and life.
Trust -- but do it selectively. Not everyone is trustworthy.
Listen to the depth of others.
Don't give much advice.
Laugh and smile as much as possible.
Don't get overly involved in social media.
Pay attention, be mindful.
Love nature, animals, birds -- the earth itself.
Connect spiritually in ways that work for you.
Realize that not everyone is ready to grow.
Stop judging everyone and everything.
Realize that sometimes the biggest disasters created the most learning oppotunities.
Love yourself, even when you mess up.
You are as young or old as you feel -- age is just a number.
Let go of the need to "be right."
Life is both simple and complicated. We are still learning.
Enjoy food, sleep, companionship.
We are more alike than different.
Dance and sing whenever possible.
Dr. Michael Obsatz
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The Art of Driving Kindly
You can tell a lot about a person by watching them drive a car. There are aggressive drivers, timid drivers, cautious drivers, thoughtless drivers, distracted drivers, and hostile drivers.
Some drivers tailgate, following so close that a sudden stop could cause an accident. Some of these drivers almost want you to get out of their way so they can arrive at their destination five minutes sooner.
Some drivers refuse to let you merge onto a freeway or highway. Some don't even see drivers on the on-ramps. Others won't speed up, and still others won't slow down. Where do they think you'll end up if you can't merge -- on the shoulder, orin a ditch?
There are drivers who never signal their lane changes or turns. Or, if they do, it is right as they changing lanes or turning, not before. The purpose of the signal is to courteously let some other drivers know what your intentions are in advance so they can be more aware of what is coming up. This is not rocket science.
Some drivers behind you honk their horns loudly the second the red light changes to green. They are the impatient ones who want immediate responses. There are also the drivers who aren't paying attention to the light at all. They are busy texting or talking on their phones. They can't be bothered with moving forward when the light has changed to green. They just sit there. And the light changes to red again.
I believe there is an alternative to Road Rage, and that is Road Compassion. Keep a safe distance, keep to the speed limit, let someone else merge by slowing down. Be kind, be gentle, pay attention. You have a potentially deadly weapon in your hands.
In order to have Road Compassion, a person must genuinely care about ALL the other drivers and passengers, and want safety and consideration for all of them. Is that too much to ask?
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Making Lemonade Out of Lemons
My son is moving three-and-half hours away today. I talked with him by phone. He was driving a big rental moving truck.
I haven't hugged him or his wife or their two kids much these past 18 months. I miss hugging my kids and all my grandkids, my friends, and people at church. There's a lot that I have missed during the last 18 months. But, I have kept busy, kept in touch with many people by phone or at a social distance wearing a mask outdoors at my home.
We are fortunate to have several outdoor spaces to meet with people. It is wonderful to see people, and still feel safe from COVID. It is not ideal, however, and this "masked" marvel experience gets old and tedious.
Every time I think we are getting a grip on this pandemic, there is another surge. Hospital beds and ICU's are in short supply again in many parts of the country. The variant has taken its toll. Death rates and infection rates are rising again. However, many people are tired of being masked, distanced, and quarantined. Some are convinced it is actually over.
It is understandable that some people are impatient to return to "normal." We are still having large, spreader events like rallies and state fairs, with no distancing or masks. Millions of unvaccinated young people are returning to school in the next few weeks. Some will be masked, others will not. Some schools mandate distancing and masks. Others do not.
This pandemic continues to invade and change our lives. I have begun to wonder if this will ever be gone, or will it linger on for many years because we have not taken adequate precautions. Keeping oneself safe is a nuisance.
We have been told by scientisits that there is a way to "beat this." Some people don't trust science and don't believe in vaccinations, distancing, or masking. It is a political issue. It is a social issue. It is a moral issue.
If we have to live with this forever, I will grieve not having the opportunities I wish I had. But I will continue to be grateful for what I do have, and reach out whenever and however I can. I need to stay healthy so I can live longer than my last 80 years. I need to stay healthy because despite the hassles and frustrations, life is good and worth living. I am trying to make lemonade out of lemons, something I was taught as a child.
I continue to live in wonder and gratitude. I want to protect others and live with compassion, empathy, patience, and discernment. I pray that others can grow in oneness consciousness, where they see love for all mattering more than freedom for one.
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Dr. Michael Obsatz Speaks for 30 Minutes on Male Pain and Isolation
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America became official in 1776. That is 245 years ago. But America, to me, is more like 15 years old. It is a complex nation, filled with people from all over the world. Some came over here to escape oppression. Some came to reap a harvest of freedom and opportunity they did not have where they were. Others were forced to come here in chains, as slaves.
This mixture involves people of a variety of cultures, colors, histories, and lifestyles. For a while, America was called a "melting pot." People supposedly acculturated into one common glop of chowder. Then, the country was described more like a stew. This was a mixture of various flavors and smells.
I believe America is an adolescent, in its very early and immature stages, unable to deal with the complex diversity of its people. Simple rules don't work anymore. The white males who founded the country were narrow in their beliefs and experiences. Freedom for all did not include children, women, Native Americans or slaves.
The first thing Americans did when they arrived is kill some of the natives who lived here, taking their land and resources.
America was settled by people who came from the British Empire, and they created their own Empire here. Empire Consciousness is the belief that one has the right to dominate, control, and destroy others who get in the way of their "Manifest Destiny." Empire is always about power and domination, shame and fear, and scarcity.
To me, America has stayed stuck in an adolescent phase of development. The revolutionary war is not yet over. Adolescents can be:
Very motivated by external rewards
Worried about what others think of them
Defiant and resistant to facts and reality
Hyper-critical of others
Tend to see things as black and white (polarization)
Moody and temperamental
Ignorant of the world's complexities
Hypocritical -- say one thing, do another
Living in denial
In America there is a focus on being young, looking young. There is also the mistreatment of elders.
In the computer age, young people may believe they don't need elders to teach them anything. They can find out all they need to know on the computer. (See Robert Bly's "The Sibling Society.")
Everything is public, and their privacy is easily invaded with hacking.
No wonder there has been so much turmoil in effectively dealing with COVID-19. Over 600,000 Americans have died. It is a major pandemic and requires maturity, compassion, and resourcefulness to handle its deadly consequences.
It is my hope that we can learn from our mistakes, and develop a more Oneness Consciousness with care and compassion for others. The vast amount of violence, destruction, and oppression of the poor, the minorities, and outsiders can only change when a culture is willing to mature and grow up, become adult and aware.
Healthy action can only follow if mature internal awareness is there.
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Dr. Michael Obsatz Speaks for 33 Minutes