Ideas Alone Never Key People
Perhaps, the most difficult concept to get across about Emergence is that the keys, the cues which wake up the suffering in each of us, are always literal experiences, never conceptual experiences. By this, I mean that people can not be keyed by "the fear of success," but they may be keyed by hearing the words, "You did well." And children who have trouble sitting still do not struggle because they have A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder), but children given this label are often keyed by hearing the words, "sit still," even if the words occur in their own minds.
I tell Jacob's story to support this idea; that concepts never key people, that people can only be keyed by literal events.
I first met Jacob when he was one month old. I can still picture his sleepy little face and bow shaped mouth, his little fingers and tiny nose. I also know that somehow, magically, in that brief instant in which I first held him, he and I fell in love.
For the next few months, then, each time he and I met, Jacob would immediately be at ease with me. When he saw me coming, he would smile and gurgle. When I held him, he would relax into my arms. He would even remain calm when his mother would briefly leave him with me. Until he was about four months old, that is.
Jacob's gets a BLock
Now, as I think back to the day I first discovered things had changed between us, I still feel a little sad about it. On that day, Jacob and his mother came to visit me, and as they got settled in, she laid him down on a blanket on the floor in front of me. Expecting our usual happy hello, I smiled and bent over to greet him. But something was very different and very wrong this time; the moment Jacob saw my face, he froze. And when I say "he froze," I mean he literally froze. In fact, he went into shock just like a little deer caught in car headlights at night; his breathing got shallow, his whole body tensed, and his eyes literally locked onto my face and froze.
Immediately, because I could so obviously see what his eyes were locking onto, I knew what the key was. My mustache. Little Jacob was freezing in terror the moment he saw my mustache.
As his mother and I then spoke about how Jacob was reacting to me, I learned that Jacob had begun to have similar reactions to both of his grandfathers as well. Whenever either of them tried to hold Jacob, he would struggle and twist and cry in protest. And of course, everyone, including me in that moment, felt hurt by Jacob's rejections. No coincidence, too, that everyone Jacob struggled with, including both of his grandfathers, had mustaches.
Want to cause a therapist to feel completely lost? Put him or her in front of a wounded little four month old and ask them to help. Why? Because most therapists believe that it is the concepts they teach people which heal their wounds. They rely on their ability to teach people concepts. And in order to teach people concepts, people must first understand words. Can you teach concepts to a four month old who does not yet understand words? No way.
Fortunately, this problem completely disappears when you understand keys. Because I understood keys, I knew I had no need to teach Jacob anything. Jacob was being keyed by seeing a physical object; my mustache. Further, because I knew the what key was, and because this meant I could reliably key Jacob at will, I had everything I needed to help Jacob to heal this BLock.
Beginning the Emergence Work
Minutes later, we began. First, I asked Jacob's mother to hold him between her legs and to gently rubs his arms and legs. I asked her to do this knowing her touch would help Jacob to come out of the shock he was going into when he saw my mustache. Then, I began, by slowly glancing away from him and then back in his direction, while I used my forefinger to slowly trace my mustache from one end to the other and back.
Of course, at first, Jacob would freeze each time he saw my mustache, and honestly, watching him repeatedly go through this pain was hard me. But gradually, after six or seven attempts, Jacob became noticeably more able to stay conscious as he looked up at me.
Did this work completely eliminate Jacob's fear of mustaches? No, it did not. But then, I was not expecting this to happen. My intuitive sense of how we heal our BLocks is that in each successive Emergence session, we heal about half of what remains of the block. In the first session, you heal half of the BLock; in the second, half of the half that is left, and so on.
Knowing this, then, over the course of the next few months, Jacob and his mother and I continued to work on Jacob's fear of mustaches; in all, probably on about three or four separate occasions. Each time, Jacob became more able to look at my mustache and stay conscious. Finally, as I said hello and held him one day, he reached over and touched my mustache.
It just happened that on this day, one of his grandfathers was also supposed to come and visit him and so, his mother and I both wondered if Jacob would be any different this time. Sure enough, when his grandfather reached out to hold him later that day, Jacob had no problem going into his grandfather's arms.
What Had Changed in Jacob?
Many people, I am sure, will conceptualize this scene with the idea, "Jacob was just scared of men." No, Jacob was not scared of "men" in general, nor can his fear be generalized to any other concept. Jacob was going into shock when he witnessed a literal, real world object; he became terrified when he saw hair above a man's lip.
Equally important, many people would now offer the behaviorist's answer as to what had changed in Jacob; that Jacob had simply gotten used to being held by men; that he simply "grew out" of his fear. Here, too, this idea is simply not true.
When people get used to something, in effect, they simply become more and more able to suppress their symptoms, which is in fact, precisely what behavioral therapists are trained to do for people. Emergence practitioners, on the other hand, are trained to do exactly the opposite, in that they focus their efforts on helping people to become more and more able to consciously witness the thing which is provoking their symptoms.
In other words, behaviorists actually train people to become less conscious of the painful object. Emergence practitioners help people to become more conscious of the object.
What is the difference? The difference, which is profoundly important, is that you can not love what you can not consciously witness. This means that to the degree that you learn to suppress your reaction to something painful, to that degree, you lose your ability to love it.
The inverse is also true. To the degree that you learn to consciously witness a key, to that degree you become able to love what you see. And in Jacob's case, he had learned to love my mustache.
In case you have not considered what would have happened if I had not helped Jacob to heal this BLock, think about how this four month old baby would have struggled to "endure" his grandfathers' loving attention. And how this difficulty would have also affected his relationships with any and all men who had mustaches. Worse yet, think about how this difficulty would have affected Jacob's ability to trust all men, in that without consciously realizing what the key was, he would not have known which men he could trust. These events would then have quickly accumulated into enough painful experiences to have caused Jacob to distrust most men.
Worst of all, Jacob, himself, is male. Think about how his distrust of men would have generalized to a distrust of himself.
In reality, I expect Jacob to have exactly the opposite experience. In fact, this has already begun to happen, in that Jacob's relationships with his grandfathers have already begun to deepen. And when I picture this happening, my heart fills up, especially when I remember that all this happened with not one word being spoken, a strange but wonderful experience for me, a man who has struggled his whole life to find words to describe his experiences. Gee, do you think this may have been my motivation to become a therapist. I wonder sometimes.
It has now been more then two years since I helped Jacob with his BLock in and around mustaches. During this time, he and I have seen very little of each other as we both have busy lives.
With this in mind, I'm sure you can understand how happy I was to see him recently when, just days before I left to be with my family for the year end holidays, he, his mother, and his four month old brother, Max, came to visit.
As they rang my bell, I, of course, was wondering how Jacob would react to me and also, how his little brother, now the same age as Jacob had been when his mustache BLock first surfaced, would react as well. Sadly, my answer was not as I would have wished for in that, although Max was fine, when Jacob and his mom and brother walked into my house, Jacob, very quickly, got scared. And although I'm sure some of his fear can be attributed to not having seen me in quite a while and to the normal fear of strangers children his age have, sure enough, as I scanned his eyes, his gaze had locked on my mustache.
As he held tightly onto his mother's leg, my heart ached. Still, I knew what I had done previously to help him and its effects were real, not just by my reporting but also by his mother's, she, too, a trained therapist. Then, as I slowly drew my finger across my mustache and back and as his mother gently held him, Jacob watched intently.
Hours went by and Jacob relaxed into what for him was a new house, his early memories of it buried in the depths of his first months of life. We laughed and ate and played my hand drums for awhile, and Jacob fell in love with drums. In fact, he was so excited by them he kept dragging them out for more. During this time, in a moment when he sat near and felt safe, I again traced my finger across my mustache, this time teaching him the word for it; mustache.
Weeks passed and I returned from my vacation. That week, Jacob's mother called. During her call, I was again reminded how BLocks heal in layers as she told me, with great amazement and joy, how Jacob had sat on her father's lap, pointed to his mustache and said, "grandpa, you have a wonderful mustache!" She went on to tell me she had no idea when he had even learned the word, "wonderful." Even so, she, and I, were literally awed once more by the events we had witnessed.
The obvious question is, has all of Jacob's BLock in and around mustaches healed? Probably not. Still, the only proof of healing I trust is to see love replace fear and so, what Jacob said, "grandpa, you have a wonderful mustache!," certainly qualifies. Clearly, Jacob's "wonder" was a genuine example of love and so, whatever remains of this BLock in Jacob's nature is surely small and insignificant, in that now that his love of mustaches has emerged, whatever discomfort he might feel in future events will quickly be overridden by his love and wonder.
(read about the Pyramids of Experience)