XX (Shargrol) on Biological-Psychological-Cultural Early Woundedness
Jenny wrote, “a sense of self that is radically codependent . . . fear of abandonment. . . . I’m aware of this pattern metacognitively.”
I’m only bothering to mention all of this [about early woundedness] because reactive patterns have a way of repeating over the entire course of the meditative path, and they seem to keep doing it until the heart of “the problem” is really experienced. This probably isn’t always true, so take this with a grain of salt, but a dominant reaction tends to come out when the shit hits the fan in “real life” or when Reobservation-like mind states dominate during practice. It’s good to know it metacognitively, but there can be gentle breakthrough when you are okay with experiencing the physical sensations of this without getting sucked into the various proliferations of the basic reactive pattern.
I’m not saying anything you haven’t said, but for what it’s worth, what you have just described is consistent with the Biocognition “Boundaries of Abundance” (Martinez) Model that I summarized on the “Read” tab on the “Theraputic Models for Meditators” article:
The theory is that our sense of self is vulnerable early in life to overwhelming negative experiences, and these experiences cause biological-psychological-cultural wounds that can be re-triggered. Positive states are also linked to wounds because this is the original context in which the triggering insult occurred. It’s inflicted by those with authority over you and on whom you are dependent for survival and often occurs within the context of intimacy, love.
As a result, wounds cause limits to dimensions of happiness because they are re-awakened by both similar insults and similar contexts of happiness. You can experience joy only to the extent that you feel worthy of the experience; wounds associated with happiness are the limiter of joy.
The treatment method is structured desensitization. Find a safe place, a safe posture (solid seat, warm, back protected), imagine happiness flooding your body, stay with it, but then look for the “kill joy” negative feeling, that is the wound. Gently experience the sensations of wounds without judgment. A more active method is to apply an antidote by creating a healing field, as described below.
For abandonment, there tends an adrenaline-based flight or flight response, and the body is a sense of coldness, isolation, and fear. Interestingly, the reaction can be to become codependent, to commit to an external thing, group, idea, but the healing field itself is a commitment to oneself. So spend some time feeling the sensations of the wound without reacting, get used to feeling those sensations without changing them or running away from them, and conclude with feeling the sensations of making a commitment to yourself. (You have to decide what the commitment is, but as important is the feeling of making that commitment to yourself, for that is the healing field.)
This stuff is endlessly mentally complex, but actually fairly biologically simple. Until the sensations of the trigger can be experienced without setting off the reaction chain, these patterns tend to happen. The tricky thing about desensitization is the dose has to be small enough that we can sit with it, otherwise trying to be with old wounds just re-entrenches the wound. So go easy.
(It could be the “coldness” of your last sit was uncovering some of the abandonment sensation, or it could be 3rd jhana or any number of things so it’s impossible for me to guess.) All of this kind of stuff is really common in meditation, which is why I put that page together on therapeutic modalities. It’s not that we have to do the psychological “work” instead of meditation, unless things really are clinical, in which case therapy is the fast lane to progress, but the same dynamics are revealed during meditation, so it’s worth having some understanding of different theories.
Eventually we get really good at noticing a reaction as a reaction, regardless of what it is, and we allow it to play out without resistance, leaving the “awakened” version of that consciousness. Insecurity becomes generosity, fear becomes clarity, passion becomes discriminating precision, and so on.
Hope this helps in some way.
By the way, have you noticed how you tend to post a lot as part of your response? That can be something to watch, too, because it could be part of a codependency dynamic. It isn’t wrong at all to look for support from other people, the tricky thing is to do it in a way that doesn’t re-trigger the original bodily reaction and to move to the “commitment to self” as quickly as possible. Sometimes the object of codependency will just switch to another one. (I haven’t had time to think through that last point, but it just came to mind; please disregard if it was totally off base!)
Oh, and one last point: The great value of the Reobservation insight stage is we get to see all of this shit play out right before our eyes. This is why the Dark Night is so ultimately helpful and is actually a treasure. If we humans didn’t see the consequence of our subtle patterns playing out in a big way, we would never have the impulse to tease all of this out. So shit hitting the fan is a great experience that really shines a spotlight on things that otherwise stay latent. Hmm, but I guess that’s already been said.