I have experienced myself as a singular personality for all of my life. I live my life attempting to pay attention and not take anything for granted. I reflect on what happens around me and what happens inside me. I respectfully reflect on the lives of my friends and my associates. Doing this, I follow the simple rules set out by Renovare (A spiritual formation handbook (1999 Edition, page 9): 'Encourage as often as possible; Advice- once in a great while; reproof- only when absolutely necessary; and judgement- never. The last set of rules helped me a lot. Because the difference between contemplative and introspective is marginal, but the first is constructive, the later destructive.
For most of my life, I hardly suffered from fear, self-doubt and mostly, I am aware of that underlying feeling that it would all be just fine. I'm a positive, hopeful, and glass is a half-full type of person. My work life requires diving into complexity, chaos and uncertainty. I tend to experience this as fun. So a typical extrovert, entrepreneurial, risk-taking personality. By and large, I like people, and I can get on with most. I am not scared of conflict and like being challenged intellectually.
So no problem, until recently. Gradually, over the last few years, I started to feel holes. My nerve became brittle, my confidence eroded, and that underlying pillow of hope began to evaporate. Covid and the ensuing world crisis rusted the business we are building. Suddenly I started to feel like the antithesis of King Midas. I call him King Minus. It seemed like every single thing that I touched turned to dust.
The more I prayed and consecrated things to God. The more things fell apart. The closer attention I paid to my relationship with God, the more confused and contradictory it all became. Bit by bit, things dried up like a biblical drought. And I found myself at odds. At odds with myself, at odds with my partners, at odds with my work, with clients, and with God.
The spheres around me seemed full of clouds of confusion, darkness and little light and despairing erosion of hope, let alone faith, let alone love.
Is my life spent, retired, mostly behind in the rearview mirror?
All of the above reached a real crisis last year August. Last year was the worst year of my entire life by a long shot. The covid landscape did not help and acted as the prime catalyst, but maybe this whole storm rumbled and brewed all along. Who knows, it is easy to blame a little microscopic virus.
I needed help.
In previous blogs, I mentioned Andrew Lyde. I first met Andrew working on a project in Cancun in Mexico. Here was someone that moved out of the church construct, got fed up with the programmes and 'thinware' spirituality, and turned to contemplative ways to fully face the mystery hiding in plain sight. I met - I liked. People who graduated out of the mediocracy of modernity can have a meaningful conversation about how we can actually, not theoretically, touch the divine are preciously rare. At least in my experience.
I reached out to Andrew for help. Very quickly, he somehow opened up something extraordinary over a few sessions. I blogged about it previously in 'The Great Unification'.
He made me sit straight and relaxed, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth in a circular way. Then he asked me, eyes closed, to look to my left. What version of me do I see? Gently and peacefully, not all at once, I saw Joe Guevara (the revolutionary).
After studying this Joe, Andrew asked me to return to the centre. After a few minutes of focussed breathing, Andrew asked me to turn to my right and see what version of me appears there. And there was Saint Joe.
The following personality types came forth: looking up, then down, and all around: the Entrepreneur; Angry Joe; Joe the Pragmatist; Worried Man; Relational Bloke; and the Hedonist Hippie.
Writing this committee of me down, Andrew then asked me to for each of these me-types as the following:
Give a brief description of this part as if it were a character in a play.
What does this character look like? How might it dress? What is its body posture? How might it move?
What kind of feeling does this character experience? Any favourite feelings? Fears?
What is the general attitude or worldview? What types of thought does this character think?
How does this character behave? How does it affect your life? Work? Play? Relationships?
How does this character serve you? What are the positive consequences of its presence?
How does this part limit you? What are the adverse effects?
After thinking about each of these aspects, Andrew asked me what my life would be like in each case if this me-type took full charge of my life. Suppose this me-type was the only me. The answer for every one of them was that it would be a disaster. What would be lost would be a catastrophe.
Andrew directed me to think, where did each character originate in my childhood or later life? Ideas about how the me-type developed over my life? And what role I took at that time. Who was involved? What was the harsh judgement at that moment?
We then proceeded to look at what kind of situations this me-type tends to emerge? What are the trigger points?
What followed was a good look at the positive effect of this me-type. The best this me-type brings out.
Finally, Andrew encouraged me to thank each of these me-types for the work they've done, the effort of nurture to protect or help me cope with the situations it took the lead.
The whole process was very, very revealing. I worried that maybe I had multiple personality disorders for a brief minute. Still, Andrew differentiated this exercise from that more psychotic condition.
Then I was left wondering what to do about this knowledge? After brilliant diagnosis, I frequently read intelligent diagnostics books with no positive curative disciplines. Andrew encouraged me to use this knowledge to identify which me-type is grabbing control at any given time. To then listen to what it wants. Thank it, and ask all the others what they suggest. This action stops the me-type from taking over the chairpersonship of my life.
Using the Renovare principles for meetings: 'Encourage as often as possible; Advice- once in a great while; reproof- only when absolutely necessary; and judgement- never. Gently allow the true self to emerge back into control.
Contemplative exercises and general disciplines of prayer, service, gratitude and study allow the incarnated Spirit of God to strengthen the true inner-self. God nurtures the deeper authentic part. Not the slithered splints that cracked off in our trauma.
The whole concept gave me a whole new way to look at the 'legion' miracle. We foster and nurture mere fragments of ourselves as if they are the whole of us. These schizoid split parts are no longer enclosed. Like a sheep that got lost from the herd, it is vulnerable and afraid; it bleats and panics.
Over time the Lord within can empower the true me to reintegrate and merge each fragment. Then the wholeness is restored. The inner noise and conflict quiet down.
I'm not out of the woods yet. But this pile of splinters is starting to make some sense. Pray for me if you want to. But, I'm sharing this with the slim hope that this may be helpful to someone else. And as therapy for me to think-through-writing.