(Notes from our summer SoulWork/SoulPlay intro class on autonomy) Welcome to our exploration of autonomy, that unique, individuated sense of ourselves. Giving our names often creates social referencing so will share them at the end of the evening so we can be in the non-labeled energetic quality that each of us is. Right now we want to get to know ourselves and each other through the experience of ourselves.
We have been focusing on empathy and compassion for last winter and spring. Our group is actually an emergent, self organizing process that regulates itself. So there is a natural unfoldment from what we were looking at to what we are entering now, into this field of autonomy.
In the dictionary one of the core meanings of of autonomy is self governance. You can have an autonomous nation, an autonomous city or hopefully, an autonomous human being. Autonomous human beings have an embodied sense of themselves, of their minds, and their hearts, the totality of their human experience. From this place of self recognition they know their needs and wants and can move out into the world, from this place of self governance. Each of us have our own autonomy, our unique individuated sense of who we are – or not! Some people can stay themselves when they come into relationship while many fuse with the other, losing their autonomy.
When I looked up the definition of autonomy as self-governance a memory came up from 25 years ago. We were in Ashland on a Sunday morning and when we got home I was upset and did not even know why. When there is an undifferentiated process happening inside I meditate, bring mindfulness and awareness to the state. I bring curiosity, openness, acceptance and love through the process of meditative awareness. Not to make it go away, but to allow it to differentiate and recognize what is happening inside. As I sat with the state, I realized I was upset and angry because I did not do what I wanted to do. I then realized I didn’t even know what I wanted to do, so I was even more curious about being upset and angry. As I continued to sit with myself I began to realize what I wanted to do, I wanted to go to a certain bookstore but I had not even been aware of this, much less communicate. Years of meditation and inner work later – today at lunch I realize I am working all day, I am teaching the class tonight, I would like to go out to Sweet Beat station. Instead of wondering is this OK, does my wife want to do that or not because she is really busy, I said to her “I’d like to go to Sweet Beat and would love you to come with me”.
Autonomy has a lot to do with differentiating what is happening inside us and connecting or communicating this with others. We are trying to deepen your capacity of differentiation of autonomy and communication through this series of classes. Knowing more deeply who we are and from that place being able to connect and communicate to others. In depth psychology another metaphor for autonomy is being your own queen or king. We can see in mythology and ancient history queens and kings governed their land. So we want to support each of us developing into a king or queen of our lives. When I started to work with one of my analysts he said “Oh, you are a lost Prince. Luckily I was not a peasant or a scullery boy, but a lost Prince. Part of my ongoing work is becoming a king and maintaining my kingdom of my life and my domain.
We are going to do an embodiment practice to bring these intellectual concepts into reality and manifestation rather than being talking heads. To be autonomous means claiming all of ourselves, this practice will assist us in claiming our bodies as well as our minds and hearts. So as we move into the dance it’s important you get an embodied, felt sense of who you are. (Exercise – Heenanee chant and dance from the Hebrew tradition meaning. The mantra is a vibrational energetic pattern meaning and bringing forth this quality of “I am here, I am present I am my unique self manifesting on this plane of existence”.)
A lot of our work over the next summer and fall will be unpacking this practice, so we can experience of ourselves as kings and queens, as self-regulating, self-governing. As we continue with this embodiment practice along with our process of inquiry it will help us open up to the state of autonomy. At times deepening into your autonomy will be pleasant and it other times it may be difficult, challenging as you experience what blocks you. How was your autonomy supported in your family of origin? Were you seen, recognized? Were your individuated potentials and talents recognized and supported or not? How were they supported?
In analytic work the anal phase of development is about holding on or letting go and we can see tremendous power struggles over this resulting in an impact on our autonomy. This is about the right to be me, to hold on or to expel.
We see how these early experiences with mom, dad siblings supported being ourselves or not. In our schooling how do our teachers support this or not, how did our peer group support being ourselves or not? Did I have to sacrifice my autonomy to fit in? There are huge social and cultural forces supporting or impinging our autonomy. Each of us is a unique, individuated expression of the cosmos that has never existed before and never will existing again in this exact form in space and time. You are unique like every snowflake is unique. For those of us who had organized religion how did your church support your autonomy? It is very rare that and organize religion supports individuated expression. Your nation and your state, how does it support or repress autonomy in its citizens. When you have a fascist nation autonomy, individuated expression is not supported. People in North Korea are not supported in self governance, the government wants to govern how they think and feel. In our country the fear of losing autonomy is present for different reasons on both sides of the political divide.
Autonomy may look differently for different types of people, different people are different! For some autonomy is fairly natural and easy. They can go out there and just take charge but at the same time they may have to disengage from the doing of autonomy. It is complex, not a one-size-fits-all. Having different forms of the way we attach to other people influences the way we are autonomous. If I have to attach to you to feel good about myself then I may not show my autonomy when I am doing something that I see as a potential threat to our relation. Then I will not stand up and be my authentic self, I will capitulate. As we get into relationship this can get quite complex. For many of us it’s easy to be autonomous when we are in our own little bubbles. The more we have to interface with other people if we have any desire for that other person to like us that influences our ability to stay being ourselves. The deeper a relationship is, the more important it becomes, the more likely you are to capitulate your autonomy to maintain the relationship.
In the enneagram there are three main types regarding autonomy. Some go along with whatever another wants, not resulting in autonomy. This type does not want to create conflict. There are also the people who go against the other to feel autonomous. They will say no to whatever you say.Then there are the withdrawers. They make sure their life does not interact with too many people so they can remain in their own autonomy. Over time we hope you will get a felt sense of your style of autonomy, what supports and what blocks.
As we move into the inquiry exercise remember in spite of what your super ego tells you, there’s no real right or wrong way. Often times not just the content but the process of the exercise will reveal important things, about yourself, allowing you to differentiate and individuate. As you do the exercise you might realize, “I’m getting anxious or feeling disoriented”. What blocks you may surface, everything is fair game and is there to help teach you about yourself. Your experience may flow with the exercise or not, but you want to honor what your experience is. Push away your inner critic, your expectations of yourself or others and move into your unique experience.