Learning to Be (a) Well: Detecting and Dismantling Fear-Based Manipulation

Images by Jonny Lindner

I’m constantly trying to communicate something incommunicable, to explain something inexplicable, to tell about something I only fear in my bones, and which can only be experienced in those bones. This fear may not only be fear, but also longing for something greater than all that is fearful.

~ Franz Kafka

Life is a long pilgrimage from fear to love.

~ Paul Coelho

Fear is not our true nature. Love is. I learned that as a child while playing along the edges of the Amazon rainforest, my heart filled with awe and wonder and my soul as immense and clear and sparkly as the stars that densely packed the night sky on a moonless night.

My young bones probably would not have soaked up this rich wisdom if my upbringing had been different—less wildlife saturated, less nature-centered, and less influenced by Anansi, the trickster and story-telling spider, since I was a teeny tiny tot.

During my early adolescence, a post-colonial coup led by a home-grown military dictator terrorized my native country and uprooted my family, causing me to gladly take a blue pill and "pull the world over my eyes,” as Morpheus said in the 1999 blockbuster, the Matrix. After we moved to Miami, I willingly numbed my pain and feelings of loss and despair by doing what was rolemodeled all around me—by sexually objectifying myself and inviting similar attention from suitors.

Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? ~ Morpheus

Once sucked into the humdrum of the dream and “the prison that we cannot taste or see or touch,” my early experiences became that maddening splinter in my mind that refused to be ignored. Anansi and the Maroon and indigenous dwellers of the jungle had indirectly taught me that my “primitive brain” and instinctual self, contrary to popular Western belief, were not ruled by fear and existential angst. They'd instilled a belief in me that my primal self was resilient, alert and paradoxically still, receptive, creatively ingenuous, agile, and full of moxie.

By the time I pursued graduate training in clinical psychology, I’d already discovered that my healing and wholeness depended on the unwavering, trusting relationship between my intuition and authentic self. Much to my surprise, intuitive knowing was perceived to be an unreliable source of information that fell outside the required standards of care in my field. The stakes for not conforming were high and I was constantly afraid of getting in trouble when my intuitive mind tried to reach me through games of imaginary charades.

I saw images of perfectly manicured crops that lined most of highway 5 in Central Valley, CA, mile after monotonous mile, causing me to feel despondent, stifled, and sick for exploiting and manipulating the natural world for our benefit, excess needs, greed, and convenience. Visions of undetectable vegetable patches that Maroon people plant in the midst of surrounding rainforest appeared as a contrast, representing our wild, diverse, interdependent nature, our free and organic growth, and our place within the larger ecosystem.

At that time, I wasn’t into sci-fi movies and hadn’t paid much attention to the hype around the Matrix. On the first day of my second Lakota, nature-based wisdom retreat, a new set of spirit guides entered my conscious mind and introduced themselves as my seven cosmic sisters (the Pleiades star constellation I discovered later). They drew my attention to a movie flyer of the Matrix in my hotel lobby, and while my eyes locked onto Neo, Morpheus and Trinity, something clicked. I instantly understood what the movie was about and what my visions were trying to say about our human condition.

To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human. ~ Mouse, the youngest crew member on the Zion.

That happened during the Venus transit in June 2004. Fast forward to today. Curious if we are still plugged into the matrix and what that looks like these days?

Elections are never pretty, but this one has topped all previous ones in outrageousness. Our First Lady Michelle Obama said in her passionate address to a New Hampshire crowd that she "would love nothing more than to pretend that ‘this' isn’t happening”—that we didn’t just hear a presidential candidate brag about sexually assaulting women and dismissing it as locker room banter.

When she said that it would be dishonest and disingenuous to move on to the next thing as if this was just a bad dream, I thought of Morpheus’ question, “How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” It was that splinter in Michelle’s mind and heart that caused her to pause and point out why we women suck up our shock and suffering even when shaken to the core (for more on this, read I Just Had a Panic Attack, great piece by GinnyLee Taylor). Since the beginning of time, we've been taught to survive by assimilating to a patriarchal world, by dodging retaliation, and by avoiding overwhelming feelings of vulnerability, shame, blame, rage, anguish, and powerlessness.

Side note: This current poll reveals just how big the gender gap is this election season (and was the previous one) thanks to today’s female rebels who are taking a stand, and how crucial and powerful our awakened activism and our solidarity are in turning over these stormy tides with our votes. I believe that the prominent differences that we are seeing along gender, race, class, and political party lines, are the result of unequal distributions of privilege, disparate situational experiences, and cultural polarizations around social justice themes and priorities that tend to correlate with these

demographics, but are not inherent to them. Because they are learned, they can be unlearned.

What was it about this level of gravity (seeing this behavior displayed in a presidential candidate) that jolted us out of our collective coma and inspired us to say enough is enough? Was it seeing the many supporters who still dismiss this demagogue’s obnoxious behavior as inconsequential to the “real” and "important" issues, or flat-out claim that someone’s finally given them permission to unleash the “politically incorrect” things on their minds? Or was it the thought of their vile misogyny and bigotry running amok, shamelessly turning themselves into the victims of injustice and oppression, just like their leader?

Those most severely affected by our complacent, blind eye to the status quo—upheld by soulless, empty shells and sluggish institutions—are relieved that the bile in our underbellies is being brought to light. It offers validation that their neglected claims of widespread –isms are not crazy and shows that we care about the detrimental impact that this has had on their psyches and well-being.

They’ve heard the hollow aching and screams all along, muffled and shoved under most doormats for centuries. They are haunted by the terror, trembling angst, dizzying confusion, and frightening nightmares that surface whenever the reality and abusive instances of our deplorable potential are denied and/or pushed back down with positivity rather than addressed and healed. They feel the despair and self-doubt of their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and loved ones, and the hopeless frustration, harmful implosions and harsh self-blame festering in their own hearts. They are continuously fighting the insidious inner criticism and the perseverating, self-destructive patterns that are writhing in the cooped up, dark corners of our unconscious minds.

They’ve been the identified patients, the ostracized rebels, the outspoken, sensitive, and ailing trouble-makers in our family systems, our schools, our communities, and our companies, defiantly staying tuned into our neglected fears and symptoms that are squirming like enormous, overfed fish in too small of a pond. They know that these shadow parts really hunger to be released into the open and are acting up because we’ve been denied and learned to reject the mysterious wisdom, harmonious balance, and freedom of living as integral, sentient beings aligned with the natural world.

I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. ~ Agent Smith

Despite the harm caused by our highly, contagious unexamined habits, it’s fortunately impossible for us to truly disconnect from the healing and wholesome wisdom of nature, because we are nature—every drop of blood, every single organ, every part of our energetic and physical body is infused by and operates according to the laws of nature, no matter how much we’ve acted as accomplices in mutating our own human existence into lifeless battery packs in a futile attempt to mimic robotic productivity.

Our minds, hearts, cells, and souls are still the mysterious embodiment of an unstoppable drive for love and wholeness that’s indivisible from its unfathomably intelligent source. They will stubbornly protest and keep creating symptoms of dis-ease until the day we die whenever our most sacred, profound connection to Creator and this divine source—our inner well—is desecrated, vandalized, impinged upon, exploited, secretly tapped, and attacked by parasites, viruses, and energetic vampires.

This is a good thing. It’s a wonderful, miraculous thing. Let’s try not to numb and medicate these symptoms into oblivion if we can. If overwhelmed by them, seek out healers and psychotherapists who can teach you how to regulate these feelings without shushing them.

If not now, when? We need to learn to pause, take regular deep breaths, drop into our bodies, and listen what our fears, inner critics, psychological symptoms, growing pains, and protesting dis-eases are really saying. They are our last and only true hope.

Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. ~ Morpheus


Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT, holistic psychologist, depth hypnosis practitioner, and shamanic healer from the Sacred Healing Well, is devoted to helping wisdom keepers, seekers, healers, and teachers dive deep into their self-healing potential and carve out their sacred dream paths in service of their dynamic whole self and the greater good.

Her memoir-in-progress, Amazon Wisdom Keeper, is an eye-opening account of her spontaneous shamanic awakening and initiation during her graduate training in the mental health field. What gives her story an added twist is her ability to anchor into her rich cultural background and mystical upbringing near the edge of the Amazon rainforest when standing her ground, challenging indoctrinating double-binds in her field, and placing all bets on her spiritual integrity, intuitive wisdom, and clarity—each one severely tested after escaping the chaotic aftermath of a military coup in her native Suriname and losing almost everything that she knew and loved at the age of 13.

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