Don't Burn Your Bridges

There is an Old Saying . . .

Some thirty-five years ago a friend of mine, who manufactured what we called re-cut music rolls, received a friendly but complaining letter from a customer, suggesting that he drop the use of glassine paper and try something more stable. The suggestion was justified. After a little use the paper would tend to wrinkle up along the center of the music roll, rendering it nearly useless. I, myself, had experienced the same kind of trouble, and I happen to know that most of his customers wanted to complain, but were too afraid to do so, knowing very well the quick and caustic temper of my friend.

Rather than admit the problem, my friend shot back a scathing full- page typed letter, berating the guy, blaming his equipment as being "faulty" and poorly restored, and generally asserting that he was an incompetent boob. The un-amused customer and well known collector of automatic musical instruments framed the letter and hung it in his office for everyone to see and read. Over the years the letter became a legendary example amongst mechanical music enthusiasts of my friend's easily agitated personality. Did my friend ever retreat from his fiery position? No! But he did drop the use of glassine paper a few years later, when nobody would buy his music rolls due to the troublesome paper.

So, instead of being like my friend, take heed of an old adage and "Don't burn your bridges behind you." This can be good advice, because if a tactical retreat becomes necessary, those old bridges can be a trail back to a resting place where you can recuperate, and that provides security, comfort and nourishment while you build up your strength to go forward again. Awareness work, like any pursuit, is often subject to rapid and unanticipated change, whereby you suddenly need to dance to a new tune before you are confident that you can really do it. Just when you think you really understand or know something it turns up-side down, often completely reversing itself, completely undoing and trashing what you thought you understood. Oftentimes it may seem as though you had never done any awareness work or made any useful progress at all. It is like going to un-school, whereupon what you have learned suddenly disappears, with the mentality rebalancing itself in unpredictable ways.

At some point in anyone's awareness recovery process there will come a time when waves of denied and festering "lost" mentality and unexpressed emotion will pour back into one's awareness. When this happens, the inner and outer reality perceptions and feelings associated with this "lost" energy can quickly take over and may easily be overwhelming. You may judge that something is going wrong, or that awareness work does not work, or that what is happening is absolutely "real." This is a pivotal moment, when you can either choose to remember that the energy freshly vibrating is ripe for resolution and that this is the time to use the awareness tools already learned, or you can choose to fall victim to what you judge  is going wrong and lose sight of any previous awareness goals, becoming lost in the old reality that seems to envelope you.

For many people, there is usually a lot of repressed mental and emotional history regarding longtime companions, and this is especially so in the case of parents. As the mental clamp holding down this old, "lost" energy is resolved and expansion begins it is almost certain that you will judge and see these people as unloving, mean or perhaps even evil, and you may have feelings that want to literally reach out and attack them. Can you keep your mouth shut and your fists pocketed, when those old warlike thoughts and feelings race back into your awareness, suddenly enveloping you? What happens if you see them as intolerable, or irresistibly want to imagine them a dangerous enemy, before you have a chance to get into the expanding energy and begin resolving it?

Unloading your "lost" stuff on the people you know might do wonders for you, but will it benefit them, and will they understand and deal with what is happening? Unless they beforehand have a useful understanding of the mechanics of consciousness and how denials, reflections and triggering fit into the picture of self-healing, which they probably will not, you are probably better off leaving them alone. As a suggestion, during times when your parents and friends are the brunt of some kind of "lost" rage, for instance, go somewhere, far away from whoever is triggering you. Find a safe place, where you cannot unload on them or physically harm them. Then, let your anger and rage move, and do not keep the process strictly a mental one, or you will be unable to resolve the Will energies that must accompany any permanent release.

Let your body be part of the action. Shadow-box, or go to a gym and punch-out a punching bag. Yell and scream epithets, as you picture in your mind the people and events that trigger thoughts and feelings that need to be expressed out and released. Even if you cannot momentarily see it, it is entirely possible that the people you have known, such as your parents, friends and business associates, are, in their own unique way, being loving toward you. They, too, will have blind spots in their awareness and understandings of how life works, being unawarely governed by judgmental mistakes, misunderstandings, fears and all manner of "lost" mental and feeling forces, just like you.

Everyone around you is a valid and valuable reflection for you, showing you things about yourself, some of which you may not like, but that will aid you in your awareness and self-healing progress. Use the reflections you get to your good advantage, all the while giving the people around you the freedom to live their own lives, even if you think what they are doing is wrong. If someone seems to be a hurtful tyrant, for instance, that is your perception of them, which is a reflection of yourself—even if you insist that you are a wonderfully gentle and loving person. Instead of continuing to be the tyrant you see reflected, and maybe bashing your reflection, find the hated tyrant within yourself and resolve it. Once your own "lost" energies are accepted, resolved and released, you may see the people around you in a new and loving way that is yet inconceivable, and which will remain so for you until you release the pent-up "lost" energies that keep new possibilities hidden.

So, keep your overall awareness goals in sight, knowing that what you think and feel today may be gone tomorrow, and do not go out of your way to "burn your bridges" to past relationships. Let people drift away or come into your life effortlessly. Giving everyone around you the freedom to choose when and how they distance themselves provides the perfect level of interaction and mutual reflection, and it allows everyone the freedom to re-associate in new and maybe more enjoyable ways later on. But if you push or pull on people, hoping to control their actions, you will upset any automatic balancing, and possibly make it nearly impossible to enjoy them again later, when old tensions are released and you are able to see them in a new and less filtered light.

To illustrate how not to do it, here is Rich's story, an actual example of ignorantly pushing ahead and burning ones bridges, and then later realizing the mistake:

Rich's "Bridge-Burning" Story
A few months after I had begun my own personal awareness process, I began to remember many events from my childhood, as well as all the feelings that I had not allowed myself to express. A vast majority of the events that had triggered these strong feelings and emotions, which I quickly repressed, occurred between my stepfather, Dave, and I. He came into my life when I was six years old, and became my "Dad" about one year later.

As I grew older, my new Dad placed more and more responsibilities on me, such as chores on our farm, which I didn’t like to do at all. The more responsibility and work he would assign to me, the more resistant and angry I would become. This caused my Dad to become angry at me, many times  to the point of inflicting some kind of physical "punishment," which was followed by loading me down with more responsibilities than before. This war between us continued to fester, as we put ourselves through constant cycles of ever increasing emotional turmoil.

Years later, after I dropped out of my second attempt at a four-year college, we stopped talking altogether. I had chosen a school far from home, partially because it was on the other side of the country from my father. My Dad had paid all my educational expenses, with the expectation that I would make good use of what I was supposed to be learning. When I quit school in mid term without any reasonable explanation that was the last straw. I was twenty-five years old.

A few years later, I went home to New York to visit my family for a week. I hardly saw my Dad during the entire visit. My Mom told me that there was five-hundred dollars for me in an envelope that my Dad wanted to give me, the proceeds from selling my old snowmobile. I took the money and never said thanks to my Dad, instead I was angry because he didn’t consult me before selling it. I was so angry, in fact, that I wrote him a letter, basically telling him that I didn’t think I should thank him for the money, since it was my snowmobile and that sometimes he seemed like "the biggest fucking asshole that ever walked the face of the planet." To my credit, I also told him many times in the same letter that I loved and appreciated him, and that he could also be the most generous and caring person I had ever met, or something to this effect.

His response came not in a letter or a phone call, but in silence. From that moment on he became completely non-existent in my life, something that has not changed to this day. Now that I have realized what a wonderful and perfect reflection he was of myself, I have finally resolved my anger and would welcome a new and open relationship. That has yet to happen, but letting go of all the old and repressed anger has allowed me to discover how and why the scenario between the two of us began.

When I was seven years old I was playing with my Dad. We were both having a wonderful time. We had been "goofing" around, enjoying a kind of light wrestling, when he decided he wanted to sit down and watch television. I was still hanging onto his arm, so he told me that he wanted to stop, which he said in a playful way. He would sometimes say the word "stop" playfully when he was kidding around and not really wanting to stop. I figured that this was one of those fun times, so I kept hanging onto him.

Then, when I didn’t stop immediately, he put his full attention on me, looking quite angry, and said in a very firm tone to STOP! His reaction shocked me. I froze, and felt scared and tingly, as if I was just hit by a bus. I thought that I had done something terrible, but I had no idea what.

In that moment I made a fateful and permanent decision, judging that I had to be very careful around him, never to trust his intentions again and that I must always pay attention not to do anything that might cause him to become angry. From that moment on, whenever I was near my Dad, there was NEVER again a moment in our relationship when I didn’t feel anxiety and fear to some degree. Only recently was I finally able to see how that single judgmental decision had created a lasting kind of distance or separation between us, one that affected every single second of our entire relationship for the next twenty-two years.

That single, underlying, seemingly simple and tiny little judgment I had made at the age of seven had became the foundation upon which countless other choices were made, all of which controlled every moment in our relationship from that point on. The day I discovered that original judgmental mistake, made due to misunderstanding my stepfather, I called him and told him, with as much feeling as I’ve ever expressed to him or nearly anyone, that I loved him and appreciated everything that he had done for me over my entire life. He responded with an "Okay, bye."

Whether Rich's bridge to his stepfather's heart is permanently gone is yet to be determined, but, it is probably safe to say that, if not completely burned, Rich certainly did set fire to it. As is obvious, criticizing someone, no matter what the intent, may not produce long-term results that will be desirable. If the recipient of some harsh remarks does not understand the concept of reflections, for instance, they may choose to hold onto hurts and anger forever. And although it may be entirely appropriate for you to give someone a contemptuous and forceful type of reflective response, if you value their continued friendship consider what you say or write.

I remember an occasion maybe thirty years ago when I was given some advice regarding my wanting to send a good customer a few hotly scathing remarks: Write the letter, put it in your desk drawer, and read it over the next day to see how you feel about it. Make any corrections you deem necessary, and, then, if you are fully satisfied with it, throw it away.