The Urban Monk – Facing the Shadow with Guest Carl Totton
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Kung Fu Grandmaster:
Dr Carl Totton is very unique. He’s a Kung Fu Grandmaster in a number of styles and he’s also a PhD in Psychology and in Education. He has been around the block with patients with mental illness and there’s nowhere he is afraid of going. Lately, I’ve been covering the topic of “facing the shadow” with my Urban Monk Academy students. As we start to do personal work and get out of our own way, things come up that may be uncomfortable, shameful, or just down-right unbearable. That’s normal. Carl Jung spoke frequently of the unconscious and, today, there’s so much we’ve swept under the rug that are shadows are empowered and fortified.
What does all this mean? We’re talking about the parts of ourselves that have been suppressed and tucked away. The guilt, fear, shame, pain that we couldn’t deal with then so we stuffed it away for a rainy day. Sadly, we seldom get to “go back” and clean out our pasts so they come back to haunt us. This is where people get tripped up and we got deep into it on one of our weekly calls with my students.
Diving Into The Shadow:
This show was a response to that where I called in Dr. Totton for a deeper dive into the shadow and how it affects each of us individually. We don’t tend to even know anything about this until something stops working in our life. Then…
“If something isn’t working, that’s usually what entices the person to come in”. – Dr. Carl Totton
We all have a lot of this is unconscious and very uncomfortable to deal with. The question is how can we do so and not fall completely apart? How do we move forward without get mired in the past? How can we be free of yesteryear’s agony and move towards a happy life today? We get into this and a lot more in this interview. In order to grow, you need to drive your roots deep down. Much of our power is trapped in the unconscious harboring of energies attached to harsh memories or challenging times.
An Urban Monk learns to heal and resolve this so he or she can continue to grow.
- You can’t hide from your past but there are some tried and true ways to face it and bring light to the unconscious corners of your awareness.
- It is far more painful to avoid doing the work than actually diving in and healing
- There are elements in our social networks that need to change when we begin to…maybe a new set of friends.
- Meditation is a time-honored way to diving in and exploring our consciousness
- The only real way to change our behavior is the change our habits- we’re creatures of habit and that’s where we can drive real change
Enjoy- this one is PACKED with profound wisdom and can use a couple listens.
Notes From The Interview:
Hey everybody. Pedram back here today with Kung Fu Grandmaster Carl Totton. Dr. Carl Totton is a doctor of psychology. He’s a doctor of education and he is my primary teacher in the internal arts and he is a dear friend. We had a call with the Urban Monk Group and we talked about the shadow and a lot of things came up, and I realized that this is a place where a lot of my students get stuck, and so I called in an airstrike. Dr. Totton is here today talking about how we face the things that we have a challenge facing, how we can look into the pain, turn that into usable energy for our lives. Heavy stuff, fascinating stuff, hope you enjoy it.
How you been?
Good. Very busy but very good.
Fantastic. You look good. Lorenzo’s yelling at me to sit up straight. Lorenzo and my mom have a lot in common. I’m actually drinking yerba mate out of a gourd. Since we visited the headquarters of Guayaki they got us indoctrinated on their rituals so this is my new-
Yeah, you’ve been going all over the place, huh?
Man, I get around. It’s been fascinating to interview some of these really, really amazing people, heroes, and just get a chance to be a fly on the wall and ask them how they do what they do and what drives them. It’s pretty damn cool. I got to say. It is pretty damn cool.
All right. We’re live. We’re live on Facebook and we’re rolling here. All right, party is on. Just to set the stage here this is the first time we’re experimenting with going Facebook live while recording live in studio with our three cameras set up and all this. What I’m doing with that is allowing my audience to come in with some questions as we go so that we can have a little bit of an interaction too. Yeah, I got all these students in the Academy that are doing gongs, doing all kinds of cool stuff, and turns out they run into themselves, as we are apt to do. We’re hoping to maybe help out with some of that as well.
We had a call inside my group a little while ago talking about the shadow and facing the shadow, and it struck a nerve because this isn’t the kind of shit people talk about in our culture very often. It’s all patchouli and unicorns and everyone just be happy. When you get into real work, the spirituality of real work, there’s a lot of digging manure and there’s a lot of facing yourself, so I wanted to just get real and really undo some of what the new age industry has done to personal work and get in.
To set the stage Dr. Totton is a psychologist, a PhD in psychology and education, Grandmaster of multiple Kung Fu traditions, and is a general overall badass. This is great. I got the bat phone over here. You’re Batman. What do we even start looking at when we get into talking about the shadow?
Interestingly enough Carl Jung, who was the psychiatrist who first coined the term the shadow, said something very interesting. He said, ‘There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Right up front he warned people that if you really want to become a complete human being who has a full consciousness there are likely some things that one is going to have to confront and deal with in order to make that journey. Nowadays of course, a lot of people want to make the journey, and have a lot of fluffy and fun without dealing with that at all.
Unfortunately, as you said a minute ago, you tend to get in your own way because no matter where you go or what you do, there you are. All the parts of oneself that have not been mentalized, in other words brought into consciousness and balanced somehow, dealt with somehow, been filtered through somehow, so that the lessons that are likely hidden in the dark can be absorbed. If that material has not been handled properly then likely what’s going to happen is karma. Karma is the law of cause and effect, and because we’re causing things that we aren’t aware of, they keep returning over, and over, and over.
If your life is working and everything is great that might be fine, but if the things keep coming up that are not so cool, that are causing you grief, are causing the people around you grief, are not allowing you to work to your full potential adequately, then it needs to be addressed. It needs to be addressed.
How does one go about addressing this in a responsible way? I know nowadays everyone goes to these trance parties, takes iowaska, runs around naked, so there’s that element of it. There’s all sorts of weird discombobulated conversations about how to go about growing.
Right. Well, of course that’s always the big question. What can be done about it? Remember, by definition what’s in the shadow is unconscious, and so we’re talking about dealing with something that people aren’t even aware of exactly what they’re dealing with, because if it were conscious than one could apply one’s conscious thought processes to just reasonably and logically solving it, but when we’re talking about unconscious material, see now we’re in a whole other realm, a whole new world that has new rules. Rules that most people don’t have the first clue about how to deal with.
Now I think in order to deal with it we have to look at some of the things that people have had a lot of experience dealing with the shadow have come up with, people of course like Carl Jung himself. Certainly in the shamanic tradition there’s been a long history of dealing with things that are stalking us, so to speak. In other indigenous traditions there are methods for learning how to integrate this material but the average person, American, Westerner, growing up has very, very little information or skills or tools in learning how to deal with this, which is why it just keeps coming up and repeating again, and again, and again.
Carl Jung’s method of dealing with it, Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who became Freud’s senior student. He was known essentially as the crown prince. If Freud was the king then the crown prince was Carl Jung. He came up with a method that he called individuation, which is the capacity to go through the conscious, the subconscious, the unconscious, and even the collective unconscious and find aspects of the self that have been split off and dissociated largely because they are not acceptable to the person, or to their family, or to their church, or to the culture. For some reasons having to do with getting along and the larger milieu, aspects of the self became disowned because when the person tried to express these aspects of themselves they received punishment. They were criticized or they were marginalized somehow.
Whole aspects of the self become pushed into unawareness where then, when the person is trying to live their life and they bump into an area where they’re not really working very well, or they bump into an area where they need skills that they don’t have because they’ve been pushed away, then they begin to notice something. What do people usually notice? How can you tell when you’re dealing with shadow material in other words? One way is that you have an emotional reaction. There’s an emotional charge that is way out of proportion to the stimulus and the environment, or in the relationship, that you’re dealing with. All of a sudden some minor event or conversation happens and suddenly you’re enraged, or suddenly you’re filled with fear, or suddenly you’re feeling even almost spacing out. You’re starting to kind of blank out. You’re starting to dissociate and the extreme of that is dissociative disorder, what used to be called multiple personality disorder, where the parts of the shadow have become almost like little people themselves inside of a person.
When a person can’t handle something they blank out and become unconscious, and another aspect of themselves comes in to deal with just that and then goes away again. You can imagine how difficult that would make life. If you keep blanking out and then parts of you come online, and maybe say and do very inappropriate things, but what happens is that your ego survives. The purpose of what gets pushed into the shadow ultimately is survival. How can I survive, not only physically, but emotionally, and socially, and behaviorally in my environment?
Carl Jung’s way of dealing with this, similar to Freud’s in a sense, was through dreams because when we’re dreaming we are, by definition, dealing with subconscious or unconscious material. The psychologists notice that very often this material will resurface in dreams and that’s why we have dreams dealing with conflict a lot of the time, because it’s pointing to something that we need to deal with. Sigmund Freud himself called dreams “the Royal Road to the unconscious.” He said that his first book, which was The Analysis of Dreams, contained the most important work of his entire career. That’s how much importance that both Freud and Carl Jung attached to the images that come to a person while they’re dreaming.
One of the things that I often have people do when they’re trying to get in touch with this part of themselves is to start maintaining a dream journal, a dream diary, where every night they start to write down some of the images, some of the patterns that keep reappearing, some of the conflicts, and very important, the emotions, the feelings that were present in a dream because the feeling is usually pointing to what the actual material contains. The feeling is almost always correct. A lot of the dream imagery may be symbolic. It frequently is symbolic. It’s covering something with a symbolic layer so that the person’s ego, again, is protected, but the emotion, that’s very difficult to symbolize. That’s going to be pretty straight up and so if it’s fear, if it’s anger, if it’s jealousy, if it’s feeling not worthy, whatever it is, those things we need to be able to dig up and take a look at, and then find some ways to bring that back into the person’s orbit.
As long as something as disowned and pushed away there’s no way to integrate it, to metabolize it if you will, and therefore deal with it.
That’s not conscious. Most of the time it’s not conscious, right? Eela is asking, “What if it’s unconscious but obvious to people around them?” From what I’m hearing here really unearthing some of this through the dream state is actually getting into the unconscious and subconscious much more so than what your neighbor thinks of you.
Yes. Although what your neighbor thinks of you might be triggering something. The fact that people are having a negative reaction or response to you is likely pointing to something that is not really integrated in us. One way of getting an initial handle on what might be going on is if you have people around you who you’re close to, is to ask them, “What about me really pisses you off? What about me just doesn’t sit right with you?” Of course that takes a lot of trust and you have to have a really good relationship with whoever you’re talking with. That person, of course, very often is your therapist, perhaps your priest, perhaps your shaman. If you don’t have people just in your life that you have that type of relationship with then that’s where we come in, the professionals who have some knowledge, and information, and skills about dealing with, again, material that has been either split off.
By splitting by the way, one of the things that human beings at a very early age learned to do is in their own minds, is to take whatever they are dealing with and split it into this is good, this is bad. It’s part of having a polarized human brain. In a sense there’s no way to escape a lot of this because every human brain is polarized. We all have a right brain and the left brain, a fore brain and the rear brain, a high brain with logic centers and a low brain, so-called rat brain or reptilian brain, that has all sorts of very primitive impulses. When we feel threatened what happens in the human nervous system? The sympathetic nervous system kicks in and we go into the stress reaction, that fight or flight, or maybe freeze reaction.
It goes back to maybe a hundred thousand years ago one that sabertooth tiger jumped down at you and what did we have to do? Well, you’d either better fight for your life or run like hell, or maybe freeze in place and hope the darn thing can’t see you. We aren’t dealing every day, thank goodness, with sabertooth tiger attacks but we are dealing with things that threaten the ego. What’s the ego? That part of ourselves that wants to be safe, that wants to be liked, wants to be loved, and wants to feel that the way that we think of who we are is intact and not being threatened. That’s a very, very sensitive issue for most people, and that’s the quickest way to actually tell that someone probably has areas of themselves that have not been really integrated because every time the person begins to feel that they are being challenged a little bit they immediately become extremely defensive.
The actual content of what the challenge was may have been really minor but their reaction is major, and that’s a clue. Intense emotionality from relatively minor triggers is one indicator that there’s something going on, and then the other thing is, again, that karmic pattern where dysfunctional behaviors keep repeating over, and over, and over, and over again. That’s definitely another clue.
As we look at this and say, “Okay, I know that there’s some yucky stuff right under the surface. I know I got the access it. Tonight I’m going to sleep and hopefully it works and I’ll write in my dream journal.” Is there any way to hedge our bet and drive ourselves into a closer state so that we go into the dream state and actually draw our sword and say, “This is what I’m doing tonight,” or is that too much of the conscious mind trying to engage in other parts of our consciousness that can’t really pull on?
Well, there are some things. All of dealing with things in the subconscious is going to be initiated probably by our conscious mind. You mentioned iowaska earlier. Iowaska definitely is going to dredge up all sorts of things there, psomasibin, magic mushrooms. Throughout history shamans and others have definitely used psychedelic substances as a way to bring a lot of this material into awareness. Of course there are dangers with that. A lot of those things, of course, are in our culture illegal even, and so you can’t legally utilize those substances and even if you could, you need someone who knows what they’re doing to help you process that. You need a really good guide who understands the realms of the human subconscious and unconscious. Otherwise you can easily become overwhelmed and when you are overwhelmed what do you do? You’re going to retreat even further into the ego, and then now you have even more problems to deal with.
I think that probably safer methods are talking with someone of course is great. Again, if you have someone you can speak with and kind of let your guard down, and just talk about some of the things that bother you, some of the things that you find painful, or shameful, are feeling guilty about, those touchy subjects pretty much, that’s probably where this information is going to lie. Remember there’s a scope between what is conscious, what is subconscious, meaning that it’s just below the surface but if you look at it, talk about it a bit, get in touch with your feelings a bit, maybe go through some processing a little bit, you can actually unearth that with a little effort, and then what is truly unconscious. Even the unconscious material tends to surface in dreams a lot and so by following the dream imagery, and particularly as I mentioned a little bit earlier, following the feelings in the dream, and then saying whatever comes to mind, and then tracing that backwards, that’s a way to begin to identify, and absorb, and process the material.
Ultimately the only way to process anything, you know what it is? It’s love. It’s love. We’re talking about parts of the self that have been disowned because we felt, or other people around us felt, that there was something icky about it, something nasty about it, something that wasn’t correct or right about it, and so it was unloved and so it got pushed away. The opposite of that, creating a relationship with ourselves and perhaps with our guide, or healer, or shaman, or therapist, is a way to bring the disowned aspects of our conscious mind, and then subconscious mind and then, ultimately unconscious mind back into the field of play where it can be dealt with. It can be looked at.
Then you know what begins to happen is this. As we absorb the parts of ourselves that have been disowned, the parts of ourself that we need to keep disowned begins to lessen. As we become more integrated, more individuated, more self realized, there’s less, and less, and less that actually is there and needs to be pushed away. Now we begin to operate as a whole person, maybe for the first time in our lives, and our dreams become really interesting, and states of reverie and states of just being in touch with almost like a superconscious level of inspiration begins to come to us, and the person may be finding themselves becoming extremely creative.
That’s why the people throughout history who have been the most creative, the artists, the musicians, the writers, the philosophers, people like that, they have a direct road and connection generally that’s far stronger with their subconscious and unconscious than the average purchasing, which is why they’re so creative. Which is why they’re so interesting. Which is why their material lasts generations if not hundreds or even thousands of years, because what they have been in touch with touches everybody, and people can feel it, and that’s why their material has stood the test of time, because everybody feels wow, that poem touched something deep in my heart, or that art piece. There’s something about it. Maybe I can’t even quite articulated but I can feel it when I look at it.
It rings true.
Yeah. Artists have always been revered in every culture around the world. Art is another way, just kind of doing spontaneous art. In my school now I actually have a sketch book out on the desk so that any student who comes in can just sit there, and just start sketching and writing. See, that’s an attempt to kind of get them to begin to open up a little bit and get in touch with those parts of themselves.
When someone starts this work it seems daunting. No one wants to shake out the skeletons in their closet. People have had a stiff upper lip. They’ve been pushing and basically restoring the edifice of their storefront to get by, and most of us feel like we’ve barely gotten by, and it’s been so much work just trying to survive all the arrows that have flown at us, yet we’re exhausted. Yet, we don’t have the energy and the vitality because we can feel the weight of this bullshit that we’ve been carrying for so long, but every time we come to look at it there’s pain. There’s darkness. There’s heaviness. There’s shame. There’s all these things that we’ve averted from in the first place, and so going back to that it’s like who the hell has time for that?
It’s like, oh, how to catch up next year when I’m on sabbatical, over the weekend. They’re always kicking the can down the road because it doesn’t feel comfortable.
Yeah, next life.
Next life. Yeah, that’s exactly what it ends up being, right? Dammit I had to reincarnate again. How does one take that what kind of philosophy and then say, “Okay, well let’s go, let’s deal with this and let’s bite this elephant one bite at a time so that it doesn’t overwhelm us?”
I think usually people embark on this journey, this journey into the deep self if you will, because their life has stopped working. These things that they’ve tried to avoid for all of these years can’t be avoided any longer. It just keeps coming up and getting in their way. They’re on their fourth marriage and every spouse is telling them the same things. You’re so not giving. You’re so angry all of the time and I can’t talk with you, and you aren’t meeting my needs, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on. It just keeps happening. They keep getting fired from job after job. They start projects and of course they never finish. I mean there’s evidence from their life, from feedback from their life, that this pattern of being withholding, and disassociating, and splitting isn’t working. When your life isn’t working that’s pretty good stimulus to do something.
Often when people are in emotional crisis that’s when they come in. When the spouse says, “Look, either you go get help or I’m leaving. I’m walking.” Or your boss says, “Look, all the customers don’t like you. Either you change or you’re fired.” Something like that happens then often in crisis the person comes in. Then we, of course, have to be very nurturing and gentle with them because they’re experiencing a lot of hurt and shame, and guilt, and they don’t know exactly where that’s coming from since a lot of it is unconscious, and they certainly don’t know how to deal with it. Those initial sessions are very important for the therapist, or helper, or healer to create an environment of containment, to contain the person, and we’re also modeling what we want the client to do.
We want them to be able to hold and contain all of their parts, all of the aspects of themselves that to this point they haven’t been able to bring into conscious awareness, want them to create the space for that and hold that, even if at first they aren’t sure what the material exactly is, because if you aren’t in that receptive mind state you’ll never get there.
They’re afraid, and they’re afraid of even knowing. A quick pause here. This is one of the first times were actually doing a studio shoot while having audience interacting with us so I’ve already kind of filtered a couple questions from Eela and a couple of our students in through here. Shaun has a question from the audience as it’s coming up.
Yeah, I have one on Facebook from Katia and she asks, “What’s the best next step when a relationship, when one person is open to work on the subconscious shadows and the other is not?”
Great. Did you hear that?
Yes I did. Well, that can be a problem can’t it? Because we’re talking about a system with two people involved and one person wants to deal with it and the other person does not. That can definitely be a problem and what often happens, unfortunately, when you have a situation like that, is as one person begins to get better the other person distances himself further and further away from the relationship. That leads to a lot of relational breakups. It takes two to tango. It takes to to to start a fight. It also takes two to make up, and so if both partners aren’t willing to support each other in the areas in which they need to change, that can definitely sometimes lead to the end of the relationship.
Often in fact, if a person has been hiding from themselves or aspects of themselves for years, and years, and years, they may find that a large part of their social network needs to change because they were essentially acting out unconscious needs and behaving a certain way just to be acceptable, but that wasn’t really them. They were not being authentic. They were not being true to themselves and they may find, of course the most common in our society might be say, an alcoholic, and all their buddies or friends are alcoholics. As they become sober and take responsibility for themselves that whole social network needs to change, which means a lot of old friends need to go because they’re supporting the worst parts of yourself and they’re trying-
That’s what we insulate ourselves with is yes-men and people that are supportive of that. The Katia’s point too, look, I don’t think it’s a choice. You have to deal with yourself. You have to step in and take care of what you need to take care of and it’s on the other person to make a choice to come along that ride. If it ends in breakup than so be it but you cannot weigh yourself down with someone else’s reluctance to grow,and it’s tough. It’s really tough but it is what it is, right?
It is what it is and if you talk to people who are elderly or have a terminal illness, they’re on their deathbed, you know what they tend to say is that they have regrets, and that’s one of the main things that they regret is that there were parts of themselves that they knew they should have brought out and they never did, and now it’s too late, and now they feel like maybe their entire life has been wasted. We’d rather avoid that. We really would.
We don’t want that.
No, we don’t want that.
It’s one of the reasons I also really liked backpacking in other countries alone because I don’t take my chorus of people that I’d already kind of bullshitted my way into believing this guy is who he thinks he is or says he is with me, right? Simultaneously it’s like why people go to these retreat centers where they don’t know anybody, and then they have this epiphany because they didn’t walk in with a storefront. They didn’t have to pretend. If you go with your buddy from college you might not get the same experience because then you got to boot up all the masks that you’ve been wearing and it’s not of service, is it?
Right. That’s why people go on that solitary journey very often, that journey to the soul. Throughout history when people have wanted to develop the more unconscious aspects of themselves what have they done? They’ve gone off on a journey. They’ve gone to the mountains. They’ve gone to the monastery. They’ve gone to the cave. They’ve gone somewhere where they don’t have to put up their usual front, their usual mask, and just do habitual ways of functioning. All human beings, every one of us, are creatures of habit, good habits, bad habits, other habits. There’s only one way that I know of to really consistently change human behavior, and that’s to change your habits because if you don’t change your habits, again like karma, it’s going to follow you like a shadow and just keep reasserting itself over, and over, and over again.
Very often the first thing to do is just to say timeout and just stop the usual pretending, the usual responding, the usual behavior that the person is comfortable with, and then take the risk of becoming uncomfortable and starting to deal with things in a new way, changing how you speak, changing how you dress, changing how you act, changing who you associate with, changing where you go. All of these things put you into a zone of discomfort but then if you have support, again from a healer, or therapist, or a very good friend, or someone, you can begin to confront these parts of yourself that are triggered when you do something that’s not part of your usual habits. Identifying and confronting your habits is another way to begin to get in touch with some of this more unconscious material.
When we talk about habits a lot of times we don’t even know we have them, like you slurp when you eat your soup, you snort when you laugh. It’s like, oh. I didn’t even know that. It’s just so autonomic and it’s just so habituated. What are some good ways of allowing ourselves to see habits that may not be on the main dashboard of our view?
Well again, of course that’s where the therapist comes in, or other helper, because they’re trained to notice these things, and then in a kind of a nonthreatening way feed these things back to you in a way that you can begin to accept a little more. Feedback of course is a great way. Some people have actually filmed themselves doing part of their day, and then they watch it and they go, “Oh my God. I didn’t know I was doing that.” That’s another way. All of us have what these days? Hey, we’re carrying around cameras, right? It’s one of the easy ways to do that.
Can you imagine doing that, taking a look at yourself every day and going oh boy, take a look at that?
I got Lorenzo here. I got Carl here. I got thousands of hours of footage. Every time I scratch my nose I know I’m doing it.
Actors do that. In fact actors have a lot of processes that they do when learning to become an actor that are actually beneficial. They have to play roles that aren’t themselves. Some of those roles are uncomfortable. They have to learn how to produce various emotions that may not come natural to them. Of course, they’re filmed and they have to watch themselves,, and they’re getting feedback and input from the acting coach and the rest of the class. Actors actually have to confront a lot of these things a lot of the times. Of course the problem with actors, you don’t have to actually integrate that. They aren’t helped to actually necessarily integrate that. It stays at the level of just being an act unfortunately, but some of the acting processes are actually kind of useful.
Of course the time honored way in the far east for accessing and learning to begin to balance and integrate these states, of course, is meditation, mindful meditation, where rather than just react automatically the person sits down, closes their eyes, disconnects from the usual things that they’re seeing, and saying, and doing, and instead begins to turn the lens around and observe themselves. Observe what am I thinking? What am I feeling? What does my body feel like? What are my impulses right now? This gives them the distance to begin to allow aspects of the selfs to begin to creep into consciousness without judgment. That’s very important, without critical judgment, because the second we could begin to judge things tend to retreat into the darkness and we’re trying to shed light here into the darkness.
Interestingly enough often to shed light you have to go into the darkness. You have to disconnect from your usual sources of contact with consensus reality, and then that allows you to shed light onto the parts of yourself that have been hidden away in shadow paradoxically.
Let’s talk about meditation for a moment because people constantly ask me, I’m sure they ask you all the time, how long should I meditate a day? My answer is usually kind of smug and I’m like, well, why aren’t you meditating all day? You need to keep that going with you, and so the awareness that you cultivate while sitting on a cushion ten minutes a day becomes a life skill to then carry that awareness into your day so that you could become aware of some of these elements or personality traits and all that. The extension of consciousness into the rest of one’s day, not the five minutes on the yoga mat, or that ninety minutes on the yoga mat, but the entirety of one’s life, and then into our dream state, that seems like a really interesting way to look at how to unearth some of these shadow elements.
Yeah, absolutely. It goes back to what Freud said about making the unconscious conscious. Like you said, it’s not just the five minutes or ten minutes, or twenty minutes, or hour, or whatever it is that you’re sitting on the mat. That’s training. That’s like training wheels, but you have twenty-four hours a day in your life where all of these things are happening day by day, moment by moment, and that is what we really want to be aware of and watching, and observing, again, with that dispassionate noncritical way of observation. That takes practice. That takes skill, and that’s what that twenty minutes a day or ten minutes a day, whatever it is, is honing your system to do but it’s not nearly enough. It’s not nearly enough.
Again, because remember what I said a little while ago? We are creatures of what? Habit. You think you can change the lifetime habit in twenty minutes a day?
Think so. No way.
But that’s what the press pushes for, right? When you open up the tabloids, when you start reading the health magazines, you start looking at what people are following and clicking on, it’s six pack abs. It’s I have this meditation app that makes me enlightened. It’s shortcut, shortcut, shortcut and it seems like everyone is trying to skip out on the actual work, which is what everyone actually needs.
It doesn’t work folks. Sorry. I tell my clients in one of the first few sessions, “Look. This is going to take work. You have got to be committed to changing your life. You have twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years of habit patterns which have led you to think, feel, behave, and communicate in a certain way. Do you think that seeing me once a week for an hour is enough to change that? No. I’m not that good. Nobody is that good. You have to take responsibility for your own freedom.”
A famous psychologist Erich Fromm wrote a book many years ago, it was a bestseller for many years, called Escape From Freedom, because that’s what people do. They don’t want to assume the awesome responsibility of taking responsibility for all of their life, conscious and unconscious, and instead would rather live like this, like the horse with blinders on along a little narrow path. Of course it’s very unsatisfying and has many, many limitations and problems attendant to it, and that of course blows up sooner or later which drives them into therapy, or worse, the unfelt and unintegrated emotions become a somatic condition, and now you have high blood pressure, and now you have a cardiovascular disease, and now you have diabetes, and now you have a stroke, and now you’re dead maybe or seriously impaired.
Of course our society, the financial interests in our society like the pharmaceutical industry and others, are making a fortune out of people being in these conditions. That’s another lack of incentive in the society for support for becoming an awakened individual, because an awakened individuals, who just with their own mind can affect their bodies emotional and cognitive balance and physiological balance, and therefore don’t have those conditions, you can’t make any money off of those people.
Yeah, and that’s bad for business. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for the tax base so stay unhealthy please. Yeah, it’s shitty. What’s the pivot that we can have with Qigong, Qigong being energy work. So many people lack personal power and they lack the agency to actually make changes in their life, and Qigong’s been a real powerful player in my life helping me see through some of my shadow elements and snap out of it, and wake up. I’m sure as a therapist you use that therapeutically wherever you can to help kick up some dust I would assume?
Qigong like you said, it means energy work and that word gong is another thing that is a great way to deal with habits. Remember I said that you can’t come see me one day a week for an hour and expect to change, but you’ve got twenty-four hours a day where you can attend to yourself and your own habits and substitute some of those negative repressive habits with more awakened and awakening types of habits. That’s called a gong, which means work.
I have all my clients come with a notebook and take notes, and we discuss what can we do to support your cognitive functioning, your emotional functioning, and your physiological, your physical functioning, and your behavioral and your relational, and your communicative function. What can you do every day to work towards change? Change that you are controlling because you’re the one who’s writing this down. You’re the one who is making decisions that you want to change your life. In other words you are finally not escaping from your own freedom.
There’s nothing worse than being a prisoner or a slave, especially if you’re the jailer, because you put yourself in prison. You’re the slave master and your controlling yourself by not giving yourself the freedom to be really a fully functional, self realized, creative human being. As far as I’m concerned that’s a tragedy. It’s a tragic waste of human potential. My job is to create a milieu, a space, for people to feel comfortable enough to begin to confront themselves on that level.
In learning Qigong one has to work with this element of mindfulness. One has to look at oneself. One has to get in touch with one’s breath, and when you coordinate certain aspects of a human being, particularly their eyes, their cognition, their mind, movement, that’s why there’s some movement often in Qigong, with breath, the breath of life, when these are all put together in one place the individual begins to feel much more empowered. They get in touch with aspects of their own energy, their own body, their own awareness that heretofore has completely slipped underneath their conscious awareness. It begins to dredge up a lot of things and bring it into awareness, and at the same time they feel more energy and power to begin to metabolize, or begin to mentalize these things because it’s not so scary anymore. It’s fear that keeps us from doing so much. It’s fear.
The tendency in our culture is one of sedation so the gravity that comes with, say, using opioids, drinking alcohol, watching the Kardashians, distracting ourselves versus the levity that would come from releasing ourselves from that and actually stepping into a life of freedom, it’s scary to some because they’ve grown accustomed to their shackles. They just don’t even see how amazing life can be right on the other side of that, and the promise of that, man, it’s right there. It’s a few breaths away for any of us.
That’s why one of my teachers said, “First you help yourself, then you help the people.” The person that you’re going to has to have a lot of their act together too. If you’re going and you’re seeing someone and they’re sitting there all nervous, and anxious, and they can’t look you in the eye, their breathing like this, they clearly are not centered, and grounded, and balanced, maybe you went to the wrong office. In ancient China the physicians of classical Chinese medicine, they were exemplars, they were models of how to be because they had spent years doing Qigong and things like Tai Chi or Kung Fu. They had been working on themselves for years in order to get into the position to be able to help others. If you didn’t go through all of that you weren’t a healer. You weren’t a healer.
The highest healer is the one whose patients are well, not the ones who have to break down and get sick and then come to you. I actually prefer people to come to me who actually, if they’re feeling good about things, they want to learn how to become even better. That’s the best because then we can begin to expand and integrate aspects of the self that have been disowned so that this individual becomes a highly functional, highly creative person.
Now of course in our society people wait until they’re broken and then they come, and that’s okay, but we’d like to change the entire paradigm which means that ultimately we have to change child rearing practices. We have to change the educational system. Lord knows we need to change the media, which right now only focuses on very narrow dysfunctional areas of life or distracting entertainment. There’s a lot of deep changes that need to happen throughout society if we’re going to create an environment that supports this level of human growth and potential that I think that we can see so clearly.
By the way, people like you come in. You have programs like this. You have films that you’re creating. You have books that you put out, DVDs and so on, and all of these things I think are getting the message out to people that your life can change, and you can change your life because no one should change your life except you.
That’s it, and you are the only one who can change your life so even when you’re looking for help you’re looking for people in your corner but you got to get in that ring. Unfortunately that’s not the medical message. That’s not the message of the system because the system loves the money it makes off of sickness and so we got to swim upstream. We got to intervene and we have to teach meditation and Qigong and shadow work and all these wonderful things to help be supportive of that process for people who actually want to wake up and can step through that.
Now, you have a new book that’s come out. I actually don’t have a copy of it in the studio. For whatever reason it didn’t ship and I don’t have it. I’ve been out of town so if you have a copy of it there, great. Boom. The book on internal stress relief.
The book on internal stress relief, yes. It’s co-authored by myself and two other internal martial art practitioners, Dr. John Painter and Melvin McKenzie. Both of them are long term, like thirty, forty years practitioners of martial arts, Chinese internal martial arts like Qigong and Ba Gua and Tai Chi and arts like that, as I am myself. We put together some of the best of our collective knowledge in terms of dealing with diet, and nutrition, and exercise, and a lot of the psychological principles that I’m talking about, these are all in the book. Believe me, if people didn’t work through this book every day they would rarely become ill. The quality of their life would really go up and that’s the bottom line. What is the quality of a person’s life?
The only way to improve our quality of life is to, again, take responsibility for doing it oneself. You can’t just rely on a pill. You can’t rely on a guru. You can’t rely on anyone to do that work for you. If it’s to be really real we’ve got to do it ourself. That’s what the book is about. What real and reality-based things can a person do in their life every day in order to improve? And fact, I actually talked about the hundred day plan in there, what we often call our hundred day gong, because if you do something for a hundred days, you very likely have embedded and put into place a new habit, and at the same time begun to extinguish some of those more negative lifestyle habits.
Yeah. We have examples in our communities and students, hundreds if not thousands of people at this point who’ve successfully finished gongs and are better for it. Look, I always tell my students this because they want to give me the credit. I’m like I’m not the one that did the thing. Right? You did it. You made a deal with yourself. You did the work and you are a better person. You are a more awakened person. You are a healthier person, and so kudos to you.
Dr. Carl Totton, we are out of time and I could spend days, and should. I’d like to have you back on the show to keep going and dissecting some more of these concepts, but where can people find the book?
Amazon. Easy place to find it. Everybody knows about Amazon.
Amazon.com. It’s there.
Great. Well, thank you so much and look forward to seeing you again and good luck with the book. I think it’s a treasure trove so anyone watching this, read the book, but more importantly do the stuff in the book, and then you’ll reap the benefit.
Thank you. Appreciate it.
Hope you enjoyed it and also we were doing a Facebook live, taking some questions during that one. We’re playing with a new format. I liked it. Hope you liked it. Let me know wherever you’re seeing this in the chat threads, how you felt about that, and also if you can be there, it’ll help you ask your questions. Dr. Carl Totton, awesome.
Next week Melissa Moore grew up as a normal person, found out that her father was a serial killer. Oh, man. Amazing show. Can’t wait to share it with it. See you on that one next week. I got previous shows over here. Click on them. Check them out. Subscribe over here. I will see you next week.