Terry Croghan shares in response to my share, which is how this process works. One good share deserves another, so to speak, and on and on the process goes.
Notice that Terry does not blame or fix responsibility, etc. He just says what the truth is for him and what he’s discovered about the triggering incident from which he fashioned his constructed self.
I hope Terry shares more in these pages and have asked him to do so.
I write this email to thank you for your recent track of articles about your process of discovering and dealing with your “constructed self” and especially the one I read today entitled “Personal Sovereignty and Our Mission.” Thank you for triggering within me a desire to “look at myself,” to which John Sherman’s work introduced me a few of years ago.
I’ve experienced great resonance with your process, as well as some of your insights about it. Linda Steiner’s “From Family to Freedom” piece in today’s newsletter also kicked me off the dime on which I’ve been standing for a long time and motivated me to write to you.
My taking the est training in 1975 is an occurrence that I still mark as one of the most profound in my life, and it wasn’t the one that started it all.
I will be 66 years of age in June, and I had an experience at age 8 that had a profound effect on my approach to and view of life. I don’t pretend it was as traumatic as many others about which I’ve read, including your childhood, but I do know it affected me deeply and laid undiscovered beneath the surface of my awareness for a long time.
Even when I did “recall” it one night in a creative writing workshop for lawyers back in the early 90s, its full effect on me did not dawn on me for a long, long time. It’s an event that I believe instilled in me the “fear” about which Linda talks in her piece.
One day when I was 8, a rather gruff, bull-dog-like curmudgeon of a physician found a bump near one of my eyes, for which surgery was prescribed and quickly done. This was in 1955 sometime, so medical technology was a bit old fashioned, to say the least, and so were the psychological aspects of it. In retrospect, it seems that my psychological well being seemed to be the last thing on this guy’s mind. And, to top it off, my mother’s innate fear of life in general shifted into full speed ahead.
One night, after the surgery had been performed, I lay in my bed in a 6-bed ward. There were other children there too, but I felt alone and instilled with a fear and a sense of abandonment that seemed to envelop me. I know now that a lot of the fear was imprinted on my by my mother, but the feeling of abandonment felt profoundly deeper. In retrospect, I’ve come to believe that I felt abandoned by my higher Self, and for me that was a traumatic thing indeed.
At some point in the night, I had to pee so I tried to use on my own the portable urinal near my bed and spilled its contents all over me. I became petrified of what might happen to me for doing so, or of disturbing the other children sleeping nearby. So, I made the decision to do nothing, and merely to lay there soaked in urine until I could figure out some way to deal with the situation.
The last thing I should do, it seemed, was to reach out for help from someone else. In other words, I went into my head, my mind, even though it didn’t really feel so good to do so. It certainly didn’t assuage my fear.
After several hours of fearful fretting and discomfort on many levels, I fell asleep. I got awakened suddenly in the early morning by the sounds of the floor nurses distributing breakfast trays. A lightning bolt of fear flashed through me because I’d not yet figured out any solution to my problem, and could think of nothing but the inevitable judgment, ridicule and embarrassment that would occur as soon as the nurse came into the room and discovered my predicament.
I reached down under the covers to confirm the existence of my problem and I was completely dry. I couldn’t believe it. A wave of relief swept through me. I was safe. I had escaped the judgment and ridicule that I’d feared so deeply. Although not conscious of the actual process at the time, I had escaped this by going into my head, lying low, and “doing it all myself.” This became a subconscious mantra of mine for the rest of my life, especially in close relationships — “I can do it all myself.”
This is the point in time, I believe, my “constructed self” began to form. I won’t detail how my life’s events occurred thereafter to reinforce the “act” that my life became on that day. Suffice it to say that a way of being for me developed over the years that didn’t begin to reveal itself until many decades later. Most people just interpreted my behavior as my being “independent” and “self sufficient,” both of which were well-regarded attributes in my reality.
Fast forward to my first year in law school, beginning in September 1970. Towards the end of that year, a friend from undergraduate school, Kevin Feldman, gave to me two books to read: The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda, and The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I immersed myself in both of them.
There I found what seemed to me to be the “holy grail” of awareness, and my perspective on life shifted dramatically. I’d been introduced to another path, as it were, and my life then became about trying to navigate successfully two seemingly divergent and counter productive paths. And, the operative word in that last sentence is “trying,” as you know. My new-found awareness became a curse, I thought more times than I can count.
Kevin also introduced me to two other things that changed my life. Around the time that I’d worked as a criminal law defense lawyer for about a year in Phoenix, near where I’d gone to law school, he told me about a guy named Ralph Metzner. As you may know, he was one of the triumvirate comprised of himself, Timothy Leary, and Richard Alpert (aka Baba Ram Dass), who explored spirituality together using many methodologies, including LSD. Ralph was a teacher in the School of Actualism, which was/is a lightwork meditation technology that in the old days used to be called “agni yoga” or “lightfire yoga.”
I did the first three lessons with Ralph in Arizona before my wife at the time, Teddi, and I moved to Los Angeles, near where, by “coincidence,” the School of Actualism was headquartered, and where I was going to work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a federal criminal prosecutor. As you can see, my two “paths” seemed to be continuing to diverge but I was determined to keep one foot on both of them, come hell or high water. I got both. Of course, I now realize that they never were really “diverging,” they were just parallel manifestations of the only path I’ve ever had — becoming aware of who and what I am.
I began to study Actualism fervently when I arrived in Los Angeles, and did so for the next 25 years or so. I still do the lightwork, but have “graduated” from the formal study of it, as it were.
Then came Kevin’s next inspiration for me. I’d been working in Los Angeles for less than a year when he told me about Werner Erhard, and the “est training.” I took it in April 1975 and, as I said, it was one of the most profound things I’ve ever done — profound because it was the first experience I’d had of merging what I’d previously considered to be divergent paths by coupling every day 3D reality with spiritual awareness.
It didn’t happen right away, of course, but I got a glimpse of this “coupling” and that turned out to be a major shift in awareness for me. It began a journey for me that continues even today. I am a lot more aware now of the oneness of these two “paths” on which I’ve traveled, but I’m still just another bum on the bus when it comes to merging them totally or, more importantly, at being joyful while doing so. But, that’s another story.
After the est training, and a subsequent dissolution of my marriage to Teddi shortly thereafter, my life jumped into the fast lane, so to speak, and where better to do that than in Los Angeles where The Eagles penned one of their many famous tunes “Life In The Fast Lane.” Los Angeles was rife with opportunities for spiritual experimentation, on all levels, 3D and others. This is when I got introduced to what was called “channeling.” A man with whom I became the closest of friends, Louis Anthony Russo, a psychic and a channel, flung open that door for me on December 21, 1977, the Winter Solstice.
Since then, I’ve delved into many different spiritual teachings, channeled and otherwise, and took numerous “trainings” of one kind or another to feed my hunger for self awareness. I continued my association with the est organization for many years but eventually left it when I had a very vivid dream telling me that it had become just another way for me to “fit someone else’s pictures of me.” This dream, I now believe, told me about what you’ve called the “constructed self” that I’d built.
So, I did lots of other things, read lots of other books, all in the search for my “authentic” self. I studied in great depth The Michael Teaching, so called, The Course In Miracles (TCIM), read all of Castaneda’s books more than once, etc., etc. It’s a search that continues, of course. I have to say too that TCIM is where I first learned what Linda Steiner said in her piece, that there are only two “energetic forces,” Love and Fear.
The fear I’d learned to experience, express and navigate since the age of 8 in the hospital. It was the Love that eluded me and sometimes, although to a lesser and lesser degree, still does. I posit that it is my “constructed self” (for which I’m sure there are many other names) that has made my experiencing of Love more difficult.
I know too, of course, that what has really eluded me is not Love in general, but rather love of myself. I’ve been blessed with numerous beings in my life, present and past, who do and have loved me. I’ve just had difficulty letting it in, allowing it, whatever you want to call it. Like you, in many ways, I’m now a “young child in a 66-year-old body breaking free.” Mine is a fearful child, to be sure, but I experience more and more each day his growth like a planted seed into the nourishment and nurturing — the Love — of the ever increasing light of the Sun.
The process of my inner child (as John Bradshaw used to call it) breaking through I don’t expect to be an easy one. Today, I watched the new movie “42” about Jackie Robinson’s break-through challenge to major league baseball’s race barrier in 1947. I remember when I watched as a young boy the first movie made about that occurrence called “The Jackie Robinson Story,” and feeling so inspired to be a baseball player, and saddened and mystified at man’s inhumanity to man. I felt sad in the movie several times today, but my tears didn’t come for the same reasons as before.
My sadness today came from realizing that, between watching that movie the first time and now, I’ve hidden so much of myself within an outer fictitious self, hidden even that part of me that cries at movies, for example. I realized too that there’s a bit of an uncharted road ahead for me that makes me a little afraid. This fear seems different to me somehow though. The fear of the unknown perhaps doesn’t seem quite so intimidating as the fear I felt in the hospital, or something like that. Just what that difference may truly be I’m sure I’ll discern “just in the process of life itself.”
So, Steve, this is a long thank you for your doing what you’re doing and being who you are. Thank you for sharing your process. Your doing so is serving me immensely, as it is doing for many others I’m sure.
With my love for you,
P.S.: Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago that came to mind when I wrote the sentence about a “planted seed” above:
A drifting seed struck barren ground,
strangled by sorrow,
Dazed by self-flagellation,
buffeted by change,
it wallowed in despair.
Whisked away by wintry chaos,
tumbling in regret,
it prayed for discreation.
Respited by exhausted winds,
finding fertile soil,
it stirred timidly to life.
Nurtured by spring rain and sun,
drawing energy from within,
it quickened with growth.
Bursting in kaleidoscopic bloom,
All That Is,
it finally flourished,
in tranquil joy.
Terrill L. Croghan
February 15, 2000