and why am I so compelled by both.. ?
Those of you who know me, know that every year on the week leading up to Labor Day, I make a pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to partake in the Burning Man festival event.
Burning Man is a temporary city of 70K + participants, based on principles of self reliance and sharing and gifting economy, culminating with a ‘burning of the man’, and burning of the Temple at the closing of the week.
I find Burning Man, with its gigantic artistic and creative art installations, enormous pilgrimages from all over the world, the principles of sharing, gifting and self-reliance, and the conflicting beauty and hardship of the tough desert conditions to be compelling.
I have also over the years of participating, found my own way to contribute to this amazing event. I now go every year as part of the medical team on the Mental Health Branch (CIT- Critical Incident Team) of the Emergency Service Department (ESD), they call us ‘psychs on bikes’. We provide mental health services to deal with anything from ‘home sickness’ to ‘drug over dose’, to sexual assault and domestic violence.
But every year I come to a breaking point where the heat, the noise, the sand storms, the dusty whiteout (this year was intense!), and the stress, make me vow this is my last year, and YET every February when signup time comes, I am compelled to say ‘yes’ and cannot wait for that next time I get to be part of such a community event!
This year on the Playa, there was an immense art installation (sculpture) called LOVE, and it answered the question of ‘why am I so compelled’ by both; the work I do at Burning Man, and the work I do at home with my couples counseling and psychotherapy, and the Hold Me Tight® couples workshops I hold a few times a year.
This art installation piece called LOVE is a sculpture by Ukraine artist Alexandr Milov. It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature. The figures of the protagonists are made in the form of big metal cages, where their inner selves are captivated. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating to each other.
Those two wire frames of two adults sitting back to back, with their heads in their hands in disagreement with one another, while their ‘inner selves’ lit up inside of them reaching out to connect with the other person, is a representation of our relationships.
In this powerful image we can see in huge dimension the inner conflicts of relationship. While the two adult figures (in the form of big metal cages!), turning away in sorrow from each other, the inner selves are longing for the connection. In many cases, art can show us concepts that are hard to put into words, and this piece is a prime example of how very deep ideas can be conveyed without speaking. What an amazing symbol and depiction of the work I do with my couples in the office and in my workshops.
When we are in conflict with our loved one, we turn away from each other in panic, hurt, rage, anger, and pain. We do not know how to reach out and be vulnerable with each other, BUT the ‘inner self’, that part of us that is longing for the connection, does….
We fear that if we show our deep real primary emotions and talk about our hurts and needs, we will be looked at as weak, we will be dismissed or ridiculed, or worst of all, we will be abandoned and rejected by the person we turned to. That’s why it may feel ‘safer’ to close ourselves in ‘metal cages’ and turn away…
This last weekend I had the honor and privilege to lead my HMT (Hold Me Tight) workshop here in beautiful Nevada City. Though I lead this workshop regularly, it’s always a renewed compelling experience for me to facilitate the changes, risks, reaching outs and being vulnerable and open, that the participating couples experience.
I am always touched and inspired by the risk and the willingness to ‘take the elevator’ and go into ‘raw spots’, talk about fears, pains, and hurts, move into forgiveness and ask for needs in a way that calls partners in rather then pushes them away. I’m always amazed to be in the presence of and hold space for couples who are moving out of and turning around those metal cages and being open and willing to become those illuminated inner figures in the sculpture of ‘LOVE.’
In these days of uncertainties, with stress over the fires, the drought, mass shootings, and other dangers, local and global, it is more important than ever that we reach out to our loved one/s, to the ‘other’ that we feel #securely #attached to.
When we feel in danger or vulnerable, when fear and anxiety take over, our need for depending on our loved ones, becomes ever more so acute. We want to know that we can reach out to our partner and loved ones, and know that ‘they have our back’, and that our cry ‘are you there for me’? will be answered with a resounding YES!
Yes. We are mammals and we are wired for connection! When connection is threatened, we feel the primal panic that sends us into a fight-flight danger response. In our important relations it may look like fights – conflicts – protests for connection. We find comfort and strength in the bond with our loved ones. When that bond is questioned, when the bond is in distress, our sense of safety gets triggered, our cortisol hormone (the stress and danger hormone), gets activated and we stress, we yell, we fight or flight, we react!
It is possible to find comfort in connection. When we can reach out and call our loved one in, they will respond in a non-defensive way. We can then feel reassured that we are not alone and repair, so that forgiveness and love are again in our reach.
Though the Burning Man fest with all its hype gets its high profile from the arts and craziness, I believe that what draws so many of us there is the LONGING FOR CONNECTION. So is our relationship fight… We are tribal in our DNA… We are mammals. And as aloneness and loneliness is becoming the plague of our times, big tribal celebrations become ever so popular.