I can still remember the day in 1994, shortly after the end of a long-term relationship, that I lay on the floor in a foetal curl, howling with pain. On that day, I swore I would change. No matter how long it took, no matter how much it cost, no matter how much it hurt—I would change.
My learning point from that day? Be careful what you ask for.
It was the beginning of a journey that took a quarter of a century, cost everything I had and more besides, and hurt beyond anything I could imagine. I traced my problems back to psychological changes due to the climate change that gave rise to patriarchy several thousand years ago—and saw those same problems growing in the world around me as we once again face eco-anxiety from the stress of climate change.
I was a process analyst and software developer for industrial and governmental clients in New Zealand, Asia, North America, and Britain. I began—unconsciously at first—to apply my analytical skills to my own emotional processes. I discovered the “shambles” described by 1960s British counter-culture psychologist R.D. Laing:
“When our personal worlds are rediscovered… we discover first a shambles… genitals dissociated from heart; heart severed from head; heads dissociated from genitals.”
I realised I was ashamed of my emotions and sexuality—an unconscious shame that locked me into disempowering beliefs and dysfunctional behaviours. I traced this shame to my immediate family history.
In 1932, my grandmother had an affair. My grandfather (Wikipedia) not only divorced her, but went to court for custody of my mother. He was a retired Royal Air Force Wing Commander, twice decorated for bravery in the Great War; she was an adulteress. He won.
This emotionally destroyed my mother. The shame that her mother had abandoned her crippled her for life. There was a similar tale on my father’s side. As a sensitive child, thanks to generational shame (epigenetic inheritance) I inherited my parents’ unresolved traumatic feelings of abandonment and sexual shame.
Clearing unconscious shame is a messy business. The deeper we dig, the more our unconscious damage surfaces in our lives. I’ve made mistakes, acted inappropriately and hurt people I care about. Yet, as Carl Jung reminds us, to lead a fully conscious life we must journey into its depths:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
It took me a while to realise this unconscious shame is endemic. It surfaces in a fear of public speaking or being photographed. In fears of authority, responsibility and commitment. In embarrassment with bodily functions and sexuality. It underlies anxiety, panic attacks, addictions and self-harm, as well as all dysfunctional sexual behaviour.
This led me into the world of education, where I became the Chair of Governors of my son’s primary school. In 2010 I was commissioned by the Thames Valley Police to create a primary school musical on the emotional roots of extreme behaviour. When Chemistry goes Bang! has been staged at several schools in Milton Keynes.
In 2016 I partnered with the Milton Keynes Council to create Stepping Stones: building school capacity to resist radicalisation. This workshop has been successfully delivered to local primary schools.
I was part of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s ChildLine Schools Service, educating primary school children to recognise all forms of abuse. I also have an NCFE-certified Advanced (Level 4) Diploma in Life Coaching from Stonebridge College.
My process-oriented approach to personal development eventually led me to realise that Einstein’s famous quote shows us that problems are not annoying hindrances to a good life but are in fact key to our reason for being alive—to evolve.
“Problems cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them.”
My blog posts focus on overcoming eco-anxiety, unconscious behaviour and the damaging effects of shame. I post about once a week. If you’re interested in guest blogging on my site, please get in touch.
“Michael is obviously a deep thinker and this combined with his rollicking writing style makes for an easy and entertaining read without losing the wonderful depth of meaning he offers us.”
Joan Morgan McCarthy, author of Peace and Harmony: Reenvisioning Sexuality Education
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