The Plague Zone

At one personal growth thing, I met X. He had had a chaotic  life, addicted to skunk, living in squats, TWOCking for money or fun, and now  he had a job and was going through college. At another, I met a man who hinted at a violent background such that I did not want any more details. And here he  was, with those of us seeking enlightenment, the highest Good, the Good Life,  God, whatever, seeking alongside me. And he said to me, “I grew up in the  plague zone, and I caught the plague”.

I do not think he was trying to exculpate himself, or excuse  his acts. I think he was stating a fact, that the sins of the fathers are visited  upon the Children- not because God is vengeful, just because that is the way it  is- and that people can escape it, with luck or synchronicity, as he had. In a  bad situation, people do bad things, and that does not make them bad people. We  are all doing our best, some of us under difficult circumstances.

When my friend said she would prostitute herself, I begged  her not to, and she said she had no money. I actually drove her to the pick-up  joint. The paedophile had a key ring, with four fobs on it, each with a picture  of a child’s face, and I could not bear to look at it. Then I asked him, “What  do you want from me?” He said, “I want you to make it so I don’t have to fear  any more,” and my heart opened to him.

All of us have the potential for growth. All of us have  something of God within us. Any one of us may step forward on the path to  enlightenment.


I love the Alternatives to Violence Project, which runs  courses all around the UK, across the world, and particularly in prisons, where  people learn by experience constructive ways of resolving conflict. There,  douce middle-class people like me can meet with people caught up in the  criminal justice system and the family courts, and grow together.

The Personal Growth Circuit

I have been on the Personal Growth circuit since the last century. You know the drill. People gather for a weekend or week, usually with some sort of facilitation, to be liberated, or to explore the good life, or to experience a better way of being.

My first experience of sharing circles was with Community Building in Britain, whose most successful event, Facilitating Ourselves, has been running for eleven years. It is based on the work of Scott Peck, who wrote “The Road Less Travelled” and “The Different Drum”, and who introduced me to the idea of a particular path for growth into maturity which still makes a lot of sense to me. He had an idea of how a circle could reach Community, cycling through pseudo-community or café-culture, where we are all nice to each other; Chaos, where the conflicts rise to the surface; Emptiness, where we surrender our demands on other people, the world and ourselves, and finally Community, togetherness and acceptance. In 1999, it worked for me.

More recently, I have done a weekend with the Human Awareness Institute. I came away feeling happier in my body, happier in myself, better able to relate to others.

I did the Hoffman process when I did not know what was wrong but knew something was, when I read that I could do three years of psychotherapy or do it all in one week with the Hoffman. It is transformational. It seems expensive, but that is because they do a lot in London, Dublin and by phone, for free, to explain it to potential users, and it gave me tools to access my unconscious which I have not yet exploited fully.

I do not recommend any of this: it may not be what you need right now. I have also had a powerful, liberating sense of being with people like me with the Scottish Episcopal Church, and then later the Quakers, with Mensa and with the Sibyls. There is a huge amount out there.

The inner critic

My “War” – it may be more about parenting.

I had a fierce inner critic. I first became aware of her years ago when I was lying on the floor weeping and I heard a clear voice in my head, “Stop play-acting. This isn’t real.” I refused to accept that, and carried on with my healing weeping.

The Inner Critic is a part of me, and I got to know the kind of things she says, and what she tries to steer me away from. She was very angry and fearful. She hated me taking any risks. She did not understand my feelings, and loathed me expressing them. I read that she is a self-protection mechanism I developed when I was a child, to steer me into conduct which people around me would find acceptable, and the problem seemed to be that she had not moved on from then. She thought her observations of what people then wanted still apply.

So I have named her Johanna. I think she is about seven. I imagine her in a white velvet dress and a hairslide with a rose on it, because I hope something pretty might make her a little happier. Her feet are bare, so she may wriggle her toes and feel the Earth.

The problem is that she wants to parent me. She has strong ideas about what I should and should not do, and what Other People Think of me, and she wants me to follow her and self-protect. Whereas, actually, she is about seven, and I need to parent her. So she is sitting on the Naughty step. She can sit there, or she can dance and sing. Those are her choices. She does not get to tell me what to do. I smile at her, now and then, point out beautiful things to her, and I may go over and give her a hug.


If you do a search for “Inner Critic”, you will find lots of wisdom. I found out a lot about her on the Hoffman Process, and techniques to deal with her, and there had that “you mean other people are like this too?” experience. I like the book “Embracing your Inner Critic– turning self-criticism into a creative asset” by Hal and Sidra Stone.


Last week, I pupated.

Last month, I awoke at war.

I am growing and developing and changing, and it is beautiful.

Pupation later. War first, a simple example. There I am in the Park, enjoying the sunshine, lakes, swans, blackberries. I am in William Blake’s “see Heaven in a Wild flower” mode- naturally high, who needs chemicals- and I see a child in a wheelchair. My heart goes out to him, and I think, Oh, the poor child!

Then I get to thinking about this. No, that is completely the wrong way to see it. Here is a child, enjoying the sunshine, lakes, swans, perhaps blackberries, with a couple, perhaps his grandparents, chatting away animatedly. He thinks he hears a woodpecker, they are not sure. None of this, Oh the poor child, thank you. It is beautiful.

I noticed in the Spring that, rather than being “half empty”, my glass was quite dry. And that is not the way to be. My glass can be overflowing with sweet clear refreshing water, and all I need to do is see it. So I am at war. I will find all my negative views of the world, and I will replace them with positive views, because those are more true and more real, and help me to function better. The more I do this, the stronger and happier I get, the more Reality I notice, the more I become truly me.