Being at Peace with Madness

I’d been having a great many insights about myself and the nature of my consciousness that were taking me forward with my personal growth, healing, and understanding since I last wrote for the Fall Equinox newsletter, and I was grateful. As I continued to build the Megalithic Yard-sized sacred geometry rings and Heliospheres some of you saw at the equinox ceremony, it was pretty clear that the higher dimensional energy and consciousness coming from or through them was pushing me into positive change. I was working on them and they were working on me.

One insight would lead seamlessly to another, and sometimes to Google, where a search for something I heard in my head would activate synchronicity and reveal a new puzzle piece from out of the depths of Internet Land. I would study the shape and context of each one, turning it gingerly until I understood where it fit for me. While I was learning a great deal, over a period of a couple of weeks I began to notice my mood sinking and watched myself inexplicably withdrawing from life.

I looked for possible causes (OK—things to blame it on.) and it was easy to pin the tail on the bleakness of the coming winter. After all, the days had grown short and dark, the trees had become bare, the flowers and butterflies I enjoyed and studied during summer and fall were gone, and many of the birds had flown to warmer climes. With blessed exceptions, it had already gotten cold enough to be uncomfortable for me, and that coupled with the monotonous browns and grays of Nature preparing to sleep kept me indoors more often than not.

Even though the approaching solstice meant the days would soon be getting longer again, I didn’t need a groundhog to tell me that four or five months of Pittsburgh winter were staring me in the face. I was disappointed that I still hadn’t been clearly directed by Spirit to move elsewhere. I felt like I was losing the heart I’d need to face months of cold, overcast days, snow shoveling, the incessant necessity of tending the pellet stove to warm the Mesa workshop, and greater isolation, even though things had been unusually mild so far.

One thing I knew was certainly wearing on me was the increasing turmoil happening in the world. There just seemed to be more and more sad, outrageously bad news. I felt compelled to follow the stories closely online and especially to read the comments sections, because I was concerned for my species and wanted to understand why people seemed so angry and divisive. It broke my heart that there looked to be no common ground.

Terrible things were happening in international hot spots, but also in small communities, even my own. A man shot and killed his estranged wife in the middle of my road just down the hill from my house in rural Washington county, later turning the gun on himself. What was really upsetting for me was that even though there were a few natural disasters, the bulk of the turmoil in the world was being needlessly, selfishly, mindlessly, angrily caused by my fellow human beings with no end in sight. It was madness and the madness was the “us” I felt part of.

The more madness I saw around me, the more apparent it became that I perceived what seemed a growing madness inside of me as well. Not the same angry kind mind you, but a more despairing one. This wasn’t exactly a new thing for me, rather something unresolved I had struggled with on and off for as long as I could remember that was yet again coming to the surface. I wasn’t recognizing it as such just yet, but I was beginning to appreciate that madness. This felt like something new and that newness felt disturbing, as newness (AKA “change”) often does.

Then one morning a week or so ago, I was thinking about a Mesa friend who always seemed really preoccupied. I found myself thinking, “I appreciate what must have happened in their life for them to get that way,” and my mind came to notice the word, “appreciate” as if it was waving at me from within a crowd. (“Yoo-hoo!”) As I thought about it, it struck me that to really appreciate something we must have active perception and some measure of discernment about it. We must be able to sense something about it, evaluate it, and compare it with other things.

This reminded me about how stunning it still was to me that my parents seemed to have no appreciation in that way of what and who I really was as an autonomous being. It was a mystery that troubled me since childhood. It wasn’t that they just didn’t act on what they perceived. They simply didn’t notice because they lacked interest. I would be what they wanted me to be, period. That point of view, to me, felt like madness.

I mused about the difference between “appreciation” and “gratitude,” as I had been making a point of regularly thinking about and expressing my gratefulness, and turned once again to the mighty internet for the insight of others. There I found an article that led me to an amazing video from Esther Hicks and Abraham.

In the video, Esther noted that while spiritually important, gratitude smacked of the past, saying it had to do with what we’ve already achieved, received, or gotten through. Appreciation, she continued, was more about the present—about being in the moment and actively sensing something. This, she said, helps align us with our soul, true purpose, and with Creation so that things may be manifest through us. I chewed on that for a while, being conscious to appreciate as I went about my day. I deeply smelled everything on my plate before I ate my breakfast. I made a point of noticing and energetically gauging familiar things even more than I normally do.

All that appreciating led me back to Google search for information about, “appreciation as a felt sense”. THAT… brought me to an extensive blog about, of all things, PTSD. As I read through one woman’s maddening experience of living with it, I saw myself. It had already been clear that I was still dealing with fluctuating levels of unresolved traumatic stress that started when I was very young, stacked up with the illness and death of two wives and the slings and arrows of a lot of little stuff between and since.

Yes, I had found pretty workable ways to self-soothe, ground myself, and cope, and usually did quite well, but there would still be seemingly inexplicable instances where I simply couldn’t hold myself together. I wanted desperately to move beyond that, increasingly feeling that if I couldn’t, while I never have or would contemplate suicide, I could see myself entering the limbo of staying alive but not wanting to keep living. I’d seen too many people spend their lives as walking dead that way and in my heart I felt there was more than that waiting for me. I still hoped.

Even with all of my worried thoughts, I still managed to recognize that I had at least a toe in the process of moving into appreciation and soul alignment, and the words of Esther Hicks/Abraham laying out a maddening, vaguely familiar, and oddly comforting progression echoed in my head:

“If you’re in despair, follow your revenge, it’s downstream. If you’re in revenge, follow your hatred, it’s downstream. If you’re in hatred, follow your anger, it’s downstream. If you’re in anger, follow your frustration, it’s downstream. If you’re in frustration, follow your hope, it’s downstream. If you’re in hope– Now… you’re in the vicinity of appreciation!”

The next puzzle piece came in a phone call from my younger brother, Less. I was at the Mesa in the early evening and when the phone rang I expected it to be one of the telemarketers that tend to call at that time of day. Instead I heard my brother’s voice and I recognized immediately from the tone and energy that something was terribly wrong. He was obviously very distraught and I was only a little relieved to find out that it was from a metalworking disaster and not some kind of medical emergency.

Less had been experimenting with a relatively new stainless steel alloy used in the aerospace industry to forge into reproductions of medieval armor. Together we had been trouble shooting its metallurgical quirks for weeks. This time he had tried to weld pieces he had invested a lot of effort in hammering into intricate shapes, and the more he tried to join them together, the more they turned into Swiss cheese.

I’ve been doing what I was supposed to do,” he moaned in a voice that eerily sounded too much like I’d heard my own, “But no matter what I do, (sigh) it just gets worse!” Ah, yes.. I thought, “No matter what I do…” It had often been my Resignation From Life “theme song” that was composed of despair when I realized at a young age that there would never be a way for me to actually please my parents. Less didn’t need my skills as a blacksmith at that moment. He needed me as a brother, friend, and counselor. I pulled on my “therapist hat” and cranked up my appreciation of and for my brother.

The critical issue, I saw right away, was that my dear brother was dangerously stressed out, overwrought, devoid of hope, and completely spent. Sadly, from his own account he had been doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result (success) and getting more tired, frustrated, and angry until he had simultaneously run out of welding gas and physical and emotional energy. I knew how he felt E-X-A-C-T-L-Y, because I had lived it so many times myself. I knew the pain and madness of that behavior and what seemed like its inevitability.

I reassured Less that I’d help him figure things out with the welding parameters, but the first thing he needed to do was breathe and settle himself. I could feel his agitated, chaotic energy and state of consciousness so clearly even over the phone and I told him to ground himself. I didn’t feel any change after a few seconds, so I suggested he think of his spirit guide he once uncharacteristically confided in me about, a great eagle named Kowanato.

I told Less to think of Kowanato flying high over his head and sending energy down through him all the way into the earth. “I didn’t think of asking Spirit for help,” he murmured sheepishly. With that we both felt his energy dramatically shift and he noticed himself calm down. “At least my pulse rate is coming down now,” he added. I was relieved, considering the fact that my “little bro” had had a heart attack 2-1/2 years ago.

I saw the chance to help Less connect with the root cause of his distress, and it wasn’t the welding. I told him to be conscious of how he was feeling and reminded him that his upset wasn’t really from the work he had been doing but remained from what happened to us at the hands of our father when we were kids. I suggested that the mood altering meds he had been on for so long to control his anger hadn’t changed it. At least he said he understood.

Experiencing my brother’s version of my family’s “crisis mode” flame-out was at once awful and strangely enlightening for me. I’d seen it before, but this time it was a bit like watching myself in the mirror while freaking out, only I wasn’t feeling the feelings. I was able to really see the behavior I knew so well without being “in” it. I detached from the crisis and was able to talk my brother through it as I’d wished I could do with myself in the intense white heat of my own meltdowns. I needed time to ponder what I’d appreciated through my brother and was grateful for the lesson.

The next day I heard from another Mesa friend, and she wanted my opinion on whether or not she was “manifesting” some things she didn’t like. I told her about my gratitude vs. appreciation discovery and how people are often trying to manifest things that are not in alignment with their soul-path. She brought up her childhood and I mentioned my experience with my brother.

From there we got into discussing how child rearing largely isn’t made a priority and taught as such in our country. Everyone’s mostly on their own and tends to repeat their own experience. I said that I found it completely insane that as a species we don’t insure that family patterns of dysfunction and abuse don’t get repeated generation after generation across our culture. With the media and other recordkeeping, it’s not like the problem has been invisible or hidden.

My friend and I agreed that little changed for our species, in part, because people with different perspectives can’t concur on how to raise children. There would be no consensus even if humanity endeavored to take this on by committee, I offered, because people can’t seem to agree on anything these days. That’s when I heard myself blurt out, “Anything short of unconditional love is madness!” My friend asked me repeat it so she could write it down.

It was when I got off the phone and sat for a bit that I started to actually appreciate just how much of what went on around me felt like madness from a spiritual standpoint. I realized how having by proximity to participate in that madness was causing a resonating feeling of madness to arise within me, microcosm reflecting macrocosm. Terrorism, senseless murder, racism, red vs. blue politics, destruction of the environment, wealth inequity, science denial, and healthcare horror stories (“Shkreli! Shkreli! I mean… Beetlejuice!”) made me feel like I was losing my mind by reminding me of what already felt crazy inside.

I ruminated over other things currently in my personal world that felt like sheer madness to me and others that always did; the confounding folly and inequity of money stuff in general, whatever mechanism caused me to procrastinate, the pleasure, pain, and serendipity of romantic relationships, that I avoided self-nurturance, the weird reality of being an Empath, indecision, the fact that things needed to be cleaned over and over again even if they weren’t used, and how mathematics made so much sense—to other people—to name a few.

Kate developing cancer and what she went through—did it seem anything less than madness to me? Oddly, maybe seeing it that way was exactly what allowed me to get through the experience. Calling it madness made it more acceptable and navigable somehow.

Even though I had experienced it for as long as I could remember, in that moment I fully grasped that I was having a concrete, appreciable sense of the mental/emotional disturbance in me that had become normalcy, sadly present since I was a small child. That ceaseless turmoil had arisen from the anxiety of dealing with severe abuse, emotional neglect, and family dysfunction. It didn’t feel like somebody’s old Post Traumatic Stress “disorder” whatever-thingy, I thought. It felt like a wound that wouldn’t heal and what I envisioned madness did. I resented the heck out of having it.

I knew certain things triggered my own Post Traumatic Stress or what I was calling madness, or made it feel more acute, and my brother had staggeringly similar triggers. Both Less and I had learned to cope extremely well much of the time as we matured, but the disturbance never went completely away because the triggers became internalized ones. Our thoughts did it. The real question was: What was I going to do about it? What could I do?

I know I’m using the word “madness” in a pretty broad sense here, but it was clearly my internal code-word for what it felt like when I was mentally muddled or emotionally overtaken by any combination of fear, anxiety, extreme doubt, paranoia, or crushing low self-esteem. Anything that felt like a reminder of its continued presence became traumatic in and of itself. Experiences where I “couldn’t fix” something reminded me of the part of myself that still seemed broken. What do we do with things that are broken and can’t be fixed? What would happen to me?

The worst of the madness for me was the automatic, draining, and physically sickening emotional feelings I experienced too often for my liking and usually controlled, but felt powerless to eradicate, predict, or completely free myself from. I could tell when they were taking a toll on my body, and when my body was pushing back. I’d been feeling it. I suppose those feelings could be boiled down to the effects of fear—fear of overwhelm, fear of repeating the terrible feeling past, fear of making a wrong move and getting physically or emotionally clobbered, fear of personal, cognitive disintegration—madness.

Not much before all of this started to come to light I’d spoken individually with a few enlightened friends about the Mayan Calendar and where the Evolution of Consciousness and we humans are with things three years after the end of the last great 16.4 billion year cycle. The countdown used to be all over the metaphysical newsletters including this one, but since there was no big magical “shift” back in December 2012, I’d heard virtually nothing about where we are now or any new cycle.

What we all had noticed was that as the Flow of Creation presses humanity more and more forcefully to really change (“No, you guys, I mean REALLY change…”) and join it in the consciousness of Unity and Universal Love, the resistance of those who have a vested interest in things staying just as they are is bubbling furiously to the surface. It’s coming out in the form of remnants of modes of consciousness; points of view, reference frames, appreciation bias, or HOW we are aware of things, flaring up from humanity’s underlying, more primitive levels of development from the past. Those resisting inevitable change are engaging in Individualism, Tribalism, Culturalism, Nationalism—anything but Unity Consciousness—as ways of seeing and doing, and we’re witnessing the resultant madness and mayhem acted out with a vengeance on the nightly news.

It started to occur to me that I could just as well call my madness “Trauma Consciousness” or “Crisis Consciousness,” in that I began to notice how it was a mode of awareness that colored my every experience across the board. I peered at life from that distressed mental state—the madness, as a primary reference frame, perceptual style, standpoint, or angle from which I interfaced with the outer world and even my own feelings. It never felt balanced or natural to me, maybe because I had the faint memory of something else: Peace. I could still feel it from my soul and longed to regain it.

Some part(s) of me came to continually deal with certain things as a crisis because that was the only way my traumatized mind let me see them. I had been taught to do so by parents who were rarely relaxed and at peace about anything and so hair-trigger reactive about small slights and infractions that they acted like booming human fireworks, brutally and continually scaring us kids without warning. We had to walk on eggshells and watch any sparks of creativity, little boy exuberance, joy, self-determination, or individuality we might generate for fear that we’d inadvertently ignite somebody’s short fuse.

That was especially true of my Narcissistic father who was physically and emotionally abusive even by 1960’s standards and who I once witnessed strangling my younger brother because he used something without permission. Doesn’t Creation intend for our home and family to be our safe place, our haven from the rest of the world? I was fully cognizant even when still quite young that I was a captive member of the family asylum and the lunatics were running it. Madness! (Watch the Edgar Allen Poe inspired, Stonehearst Asylum, on Netflix for a taste of that, if you dare! Mwuhahahaha!)

Living for even a short period of time in experiences like that change something in our brains, our psyches, that makes us split off energy and consciousness to become hyper-vigilant—always scanning the horizon for danger, eggshell-walking, noting the exits, trying to make sure all the ‘t’s’ are crossed and ‘i’s’ dotted to slip by without making sparks, attracting too much attention, or risking deadly wrath. It’s next to impossible to really relax when you’re in that place of perpetual, internal stress. Realizing that we crossed an ‘i’ or dotted a ‘t’ by mistake can be grounds enough to death-spiral downward into vicious condemnation of self: “No matter what I doooooooooooo…

This is a horrible, mind-bending way to live, especially for a child, that can disrupt learning and damage mental, emotional, and physical health. I saw it in children in the elementary schools I taught in. If, within a lifetime we throw in some junker automobiles that may or may not start when needed, an unreliable income-stream, repressive religious pressure, substance abuse, sick or elderly family members that may go into crisis at any moment, physical “accidents”, grief-inducing life outcomes like separation and loss, and other incidents that resemble the original traumas a little too closely, and the wariness, anxiety, anger and despair can grow to maddening and debilitating proportions or erupt in full blown murder-rage.

I was aware of all of that, but didn’t see (Read that: “appreciate”) my own outmoded reference frame of Trauma Consciousness clearly enough to break it down until just lately. What I decided I could start with now that I did was finding a way to be at peace with the madness, within and without. I knew it was possible, and thought of Mother Theresa as a visual example for myself. Somehow, she managed to be at peace with the madness of extreme illness, poverty, and filth that persisted around her even in this modern age as she practiced unconditional love and service. Others had done it too.

I muscle tested myself, asking if I was “willing to be at peace with the madness,” and got a YES answer. Same for “wanting to”. When I asked myself, “Can I be at peace with the madness inside of me and in the world outside?” I got a NO. There was my own private resistance to evolutionary change peeking through. I had declared it as impossible, merely a point of view.

As I used my Guided Head Movement healing process to release that resistant view, I coached my inner self about being at peace with different “madnesses” that I’d experienced, asking my inner “You” if it could be at peace with each one. To my surprise, my inner mind threw out an unexpected, subconscious curveball and I heard myself saying, “Remember how in school when you tried to add numbers up and it came out all wrong it felt like madness? Can you find a way to be at peace with that?

I burst into tears at the suppressed memory of how my unsure grasp of numbers and arithmetic had added to my feelings of madness (or the other way around) way back in grade school. When later recounting that story to my brother, he confided in me that as brilliant as he is, he still can’t multiply in his head. No one spoke much of “learning disabilities” back then, and he was labeled by my parents and teachers alike as “lazy” when his mental processing was scrambled, or busy with the endless loop of trying to make sense of why his own father kept trying to kill him. Madness!

I felt some relief from that healing and those tears, but I knew I had more work ahead of me. I could feel things were roiling in my unconscious and it was still affecting my mood and disrupting my sleep, but thankfully seemed to be changing a little. A day or so later, I sat and reviewed with appreciation how shocking, overwhelming, and unfathomable my father’s behavior had been for me, but also how I came to see him holographically within myself.

After all, I inherited his DNA and learned to employ some of his dysfunctional emotional patterns. I heard him in my voice and watched myself behave like him. I also looked so much like him when I looked in the mirror, especially as I have aged, and have often feared I was or would become unavoidably “him”. My younger brother and I agreed that part of why we each didn’t have kids was because we were pretty sure we’d sometimes lose control and scream at them just like our father did at us—or worse. I was unwilling to take the chance that I would ever do that to a child.

Worst of all, I had mortgaged my authenticity and autonomy to my father with an unspoken bargain: “IF I don’t surrender and be exactly the way he wants me to, whatever the hell that is (like him?), THEN I’ll be abandoned, unloved, or killed off.” The first two happened by the time I was thirteen anyway, despite my capitulation, but by then I was largely suppressing who and what I really was.

Like my brother’s recent episode, when I’d be working on something that would get worse the more I tried to fix it, or would suddenly “go south” at the last moment after hours of work, I’d fly into a Maynard-like rage so terrible that it actually hurt. (Yes, his name was Maynard, Maynard Stanley Silberberg) The repeated pounding of those exhausting rages over a lifetime eventually caused me to largely stop making art and doing home repairs because they’d make me feel like I had lost my effing mind.

Within the last few days I came to understand that a goodly part of those experiences was seeing myself reenact my father’s madness. Forgiveness or no, it was his madness and getting the short end of that bargain that I was still not at peace with, all these years later.

After discussing things with my Guides, I settled upon a healing prompt that was really a pledge to myself. If I could really make it from my heart, I knew it would bring me to a greater place of peace within: “I will never let my father (or his behavior) feel like madness to me again.” It took three repeats of the Guided Head Movement healing technique to get this to shift for me, reflecting how strong the conflict, resistance, anger, and resentment were locked down.

The good news was that it did shift and I felt a sense of relief and relative calm that has lasted and continued to expand. Even writing this story felt less stressful for me. I felt that I could just say what I wanted without judging myself. It seemed much less important to make things “perfect” without lighting some unseen bottle rocket. The knowledge that it would come out later than I originally and unrealistically wanted was no longer a crisis, and conveying the lesson took precedence over the timing or event attendance.

I’m continuing to help myself by taking a break from the outer madness in the short run by avoiding reading the news for a while. I even took a much needed time-out yesterday before this story was finished to spend a few healing hours with peaceful, loving friends and their highly functional family, sharing this story with them in snippets as I helped out on their farm. I could feel something inside me unfurling, expanding in that nurturing, safe-feeling environment.

As it turned out, my insights had great relevance for my friends as well, having just returned from a visit with dysfunctional extended family. They marveled at how I always seemed to be already working through exactly what they had just noticed becoming an issue in their own lives. I reminded them that we were all being nudged in the same direction at the same time by Creation. They were just a little slower at appreciating it.

I continued to recount this story over dinner and expressed my fragile hope that I was on the right track with my insights and healing. To my surprise and relief, everyone at the table volunteered that they could see the positive changes in me from just weeks before, even their teenage daughter. When I encouraged that very gifted and mature child to exercise her already amazing higher perception by asking her how I seemed different, she said, “Well, you always have good energy, but it’s even better. Um, … buffered.

I had sort of a brain-delay hearing that last word, recognizing how she meant it only after a few seconds, not so much cognitively but telepathically, and from a higher understanding. The reference was more related to a chemical solution than an internet video slowly loading. I was more stabilized, fluid, equalized, and less reactive, like acid/alkali buffering—a balance of polarities that still kept things very stable when more of one or the other was added.

The next time (and it may happen again) I feel myself being triggered, I’ll remind myself to focus and appreciate and see how it goes. While I don’t feel that I have by any means completely “healed” my dance with madness, (Oh, geez! Dancing so filled me with socially inept anxiety that it, too, felt like madness!) it actually feels like something about my mind is healing, very analogously to a physical wound that’s finally turned that corner where it doesn’t hurt every time I bump it. I feel like I’m having a new, appreciative relationship with my mind that will become healthier and healthier. Maybe it is as people say, as long as we question our sanity, that’s how we know we’re not really insane.

About Brad Silberberg

Brad Silberberg, director of The Mesa Creative Arts Center in Burgettstown, PA (Pittsburgh area) is an artist, holistic healer, spiritual leader, and change agent.
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