The Not-So-Secret Helpers: Spirit Guides in Therapy
“Imagination is the real and eternal world, of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.”
Tom and I sit facing each other in my Manhattan office. With its Buddhist cloth paintings, Japanese lamp and comfortable couch, the quiet atmosphere of the room fits well with the work we are about to embark on. Tom leans back in the soft green rocker, while I get myself organized on my rolling desk chair.
“Ready then?” I ask.
“Yes,” Tom replies. He pulls off his sneakers and leans back, Mr. Rogers-style. He's young, just past thirty, likeable, and has a happy-go-lucky air about him that makes him always ready to smile and crack a joke. But this ordinariness makes poor preparation for what we are about to do.
Tom closes his eyes, breathes slightly slower, looks downwards, and a few seconds later says, “Okay, they're here.”
“They” are his spirit guides, and he has been accessing them in this uncomplicated fashion for several weeks now.
“Where do you want to start?” I ask, and Tom, who has been doing his homework during the week, raises an issue you could find in a therapy session anywhere – anxiety, job issues, girlfriend problems, drinking too much.
But the way these problems get resolved, and the speed at which it is happening, makes our process very unusual indeed. Issues are getting ticked off some invisible to-do list on a time scale of days and weeks instead of the usual months and years.
Tom and I believe the accelerated progress came with the appearance of his spirit guides. I want to say they are the best helper a therapist could get, but really it's the other way round, and I found myself increasingly in their service as I worked with Tom across the months of March through September 2010. This is an account of that short, strange trip.
What Are Spirit Guides?
If you look to indigenous traditions, spirit guides are everywhere. They accompany the spiritual work that people do as they evolve and enrich themselves with wisdom. To some people, spirit guides come in the form of animals, to some as ancestors, and to some as beings of light. You can have relationships with the spirits of rocks, plants or planets as well. For many people who live closer to earth than we do, these relationships stretch inside them as far as their external network of friends and family stretches outside. Life without these spiritual relationships would be a miserable Robinson Crusoe existence.
Spirit guides are more sparse in our culture. Guardian angels are perhaps our most common image of a spirit guide presence, while in Dante's Divine Comedy, the author is led through the Underworld by the spirit of the ancient Roman poet Virgil. Virgil is Dante's guide and mentor as they pass by souls in torment and souls in ecstasy, until Dante eventually finds his way back out to the earthly plane, via Purgatory and Paradise. More recently, psychologist C.G. Jung drew inspiration from dialogues he wrote with a spirit guide named Philemon, and it was Philemon who helped him understand his visions and find meaning in his vibrant inner world.
“Philemon represented superior insight. He was a mysterious figure to me. At times he seemed quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru. The fact was, he conveyed to me many an illuminating idea.”
—C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections
Very young children in our culture quite commonly talk about invisible companions who are their playmates. Some people think these may be spirit guides too, visiting our children and showing them the “real and eternal world” of Imagination, as William Blake called it, before the children get educated out of this connection and settle for living in the “faint shadow” of our materialistic “vegetable” world.
Spirit guides come with a fresher, fuller perspective than we get from our normal senses. Perhaps guides are part of our innate inner wisdom, or maybe they come from outside us; but either way, we experience them as wise helpers and companions who won't let us off the hook of our own learning. Connecting with spirit guides is not exactly standard procedure in regular psychotherapy, but the method I use – called Internal Family Systems Therapy – has a clear and welcoming place for them.
And What Is IFS?
The name Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is such a mouthful – but if you break it down, the words make a clear description. First, it's internal. It's not like regular psychotherapy – you go inside yourself, as people do in meditation or hypnosis, and in this state of mind you encounter the different parts of yourself that need healing.
All of us have a natural multiplicity inside, even if we don't often think of it that way. One part of me wants to get up in the morning, while another part wants to lie in bed. One part of me gets mad when someone bumps into me in the subway, and an opposing part believes it should shrug it off and try to be the bigger person. One part of me is in pain, and another part tries to protect that one from more pain. These relate to each other as a system, and though they may not all get along, all parts, in their own different ways, are in the business of helping me.
Does this internal system resemble a traditional family, with mother, father, and children? No, it does not, and this is the one word in the name of this therapy that is misleading. The model only sees our internal system of parts as a family in the very broadest sense that my parts are intimately connected with one another, and what one part does affects all the rest.
A word about Tom's internal system: Tom works very visually, which makes it very easy to describe his process in words. He can close his eyes, see his parts as clear pictures in his mind, and have extended conversations with them. This is cool when it happens, but you don't have to be able to do this to do IFS. People process their inner experience in a variety of different ways, and it doesn't matter how you process, it matters that you process.
Some people surprise themselves in IFS when they discover for the first time that they are visual processors, while others do it some other way, perhaps physically, or through a felt sense of their parts. Other people feel too unsafe or are in too much turmoil to start inner work, but these folks can prepare the ground for the future and work towards doing deeper inner work.
At the start of our work together, there was no sign of guides, angels, or anyone else from the ether. Tom was a regular client with regular issues. Even though he knew he did a good job at work and his boss was very pleased with him, he was consumed with anxiety and self-doubt, and he had big trouble completing projects that he started. And despite his obvious kindness and his good intentions, his relationships with women seemed always to end badly. After the most recent disaster, he did not trust that he could sustain another relationship. Besides that, he was tamping down a lot of these difficult emotions with alcohol and pot, and he didn't like where that was taking him.
We started work on what Tom chose as his most immediate issue: the anxiety. I asked him to “go inside” himself and find the part that felt so anxious.
Tom closed his eyes, relaxed, and was able to feel his anxiety physically as an uncomfortable agitation deep in the pit of his stomach. He named this the “Anxietal Part”.
All sorts of reactions to the Anxietal Part came up for Tom, and they ranged from fearing it, to being angry with it, to being frustrated that it was still there. Tom worked with each of these reactions separately, until he was able to persuade them all to step back from their rather knee-jerk responses. This allowed Tom, more open and curious now, to start an honest dialogue with the Anxietal Part.
He asked it to tell us a little about itself, and let us know how it was doing.
It's reply? “I'm busy. Go away!”
When you think about it, it's no surprise that a part like this should blow Tom a raspberry on their first introduction – after all, he had probably been casting it as the bad guy or the problem child all his life. But we stuck with it, and persuaded the part that since we were saying hello so nicely now, it might as well have a conversation with us. In fact, parts like this have often been press-ganged long ago into their roles. They may feel stuck, unhappy, and tired of what they are doing.
The Anxietal part responded to our interest by showing Tom a memory from when he was about ten years old. Tom's family had moved to another house that summer, and his parents were planning to put him in summer camp. Tom fought hard to not go to camp. He wanted to explore the new town and settle into his new house. Finally, he got his way, but during the very first days they were there, he impulsively ran across the street, got hit by a car, and badly broke his leg. The recovery was long and slow, and when Tom finally started school, he wasn't feeling familiar and “part of” as he had hoped, but was the strange new kid in town, with a huge cast on his leg.
This event reverberated throughout Tom's inner system till it reached emblematic proportion. For the Anxietal Part, the accident meant it could never again trust his judgment, and that it had to be on constant watch for bad decisions and hasty errors. The part would erupt into anxiety if it thought he was on the verge of making a major mistake – which as far as it was concerned, was pretty much all the time.
The Anxietal Part did not believe it was getting in Tom's way. It saw itself as protecting him from the really bad stuff, which was the terrible insecurity and depression he would feel after making a big mistake. So from the Anxietal Part's point of view, it was out there saving him from disasters on an ongoing basis.
But the Anxietal Part told us its earliest days went back further than that. Tom had never got a very firm start in life. His parents divorced when he was just six months old, and through all of his growing up his relationship with his mother had been fractious, as she had struggled hard with bouts of depression and heavy drinking.
Later on, his father came back into his life, but even then, their relationship was very torn and conflicted. Tom saw an image of himself as an eight-year-old kid, on the outside cocky, friendly, and among people, but very hurt, lonely and disconnected on the inside. This Little Boy was the one the Anxietal Part was protecting so diligently, and it was with him that our work would begin.
Here Come The Guides
About a month into our work together, Tom told me about an intriguing event. A couple of days earlier he had gone to an energy healer named Anna Miranda, in Ronkonkoma, Long Island. Tom had gone there to work on the same issues that came up in therapy. As he lay on the healing table, he suddenly sensed two angel-like presences hovering above his shoulders, sending a flow of energy through him and giving him further insights into his childhood. Some of the insights were about him, but some went beyond that, and were about his father's troubled and hesitant state of mind when he re-entered Tom's life. These presences turned out to be Tom's guides.
Internal Family Systems Therapy sees guides as having a healing energy that can help with the therapy process. So, working on the principle that Manhattan can do whatever Ronkonkoma can do, I asked Tom to invite those spirit presences into our session.
To our surprise they showed up immediately, hovering behind Tom's shoulders. For me, I couldn't feel anything different in the room at all, but to Tom they were a palpable presence, radiating compassion, interest, and intelligence.
From then on, the therapy was transformed. They worked with Tom directly, and they would sometimes speak to me via Tom, who would relay what they had to say. It was like Tom was on a cell phone, and I could swap messages with the people on the other end, but never hear them talk.
The Little Boy
At first the guides stayed in that non-interventive role, bathing Tom in their healing presence but not actively taking part in what we were doing. Only later on did they take a leadership part in the healing.
So at this point Tom and I continued working with the Anxietal Part. Protective parts like this one are nothing if not loyal, and they will never leave their posts while they believe the part they are protecting remains unsafe. So before we could do any more with the Anxietal Part, it was apparent that we would have to help out the Little Boy who got hit by the car.
We asked the Anxietal Part to let us get access to this Little Boy, and it agreed. The place this apparently social and happy kid lived in Tom's imagination was a cold, empty room with a bare concrete floor.
Bringing himself into that cold room, Tom befriended the Little Boy, and told him that he [adult Tom] was there to help him out.
The Little Boy responded just like a kid would. At first he was shy and suspicious, but once some trust grew between them he became vibrant, active, and a little demanding too.
I had Tom ask the Little Boy to show him what he had been through to get so lonely and sad.
He showed Tom how damaging his mother's drinking was for him. When she was drinking, she was emotionally absent, and when she was not drinking she overly made amends, so that the Little Boy became tortured by the inconsistency. He was enraged especially by her drinking on Sunday nights, when she and her drinking buddies were so loud they would keep Tom up till the early hours, making him a wreck for school the next day. Sometimes she was a mother to him, and sometimes Tom was the one in the caretaker role – a pattern that repeated into adult life in his fraught and difficult relationships with women.
The session was reaching its end, and we did not want to send the kid back to the concrete cell to stay for the coming week. That was when the guides moved out of their passive role and came in to help. They created a beautiful landscape, with a forest, cliffs and a huge waterfall for the Little Boy to stay in.
Into this landscape Tom then brought his grandfather's house, a place of safety and happy summer memories. It turned out that this imaginal landscape was to become the place that many of Tom's parts went to as part of their healing and recovery.
The Little Boy Unburdens
In the Internal Family Systems model, after a part like the Little Boy has told its story to a sympathetic and engaged adult self, it is usually ready to let go of the toxic charge of the bad experience. What often sets trauma in place is not just the bad thing that happened, but the fact that no one was there to offer comfort, give love, or put the event into context. Without that comfort, the child self gets frozen in time, unable to engage in present day life, and needing to be protected by all kinds of other parts – of which the Anxietal Part is just one type.
All this has a silver lining, though. Since the child part is frozen in time, it is always possible for you to return to it in your present-day adult self and give it the love and the healing it never got before.
Once the child part feels like it has been listened to and loved, it is usually ready to let go of the toxic charge of the bad experience. IFS therapy does this in a unique step-by-step way, and spirit guides seem to like it. This is how it played out with the Little Boy.
Tom asked the Little Boy to scan his [the Little Boy's] body to see if there was anything that there that was not really part of him.
As the Little Boy looked over his body he found an area of darkness in the center of his chest that he knew did not belong there. This, in IFS language, was the burden of a bad and unresolved experience, and for him to feel whole again, he would have to let it go.
Tom asked the Little Boy if he was ready to let the area of darkness leave his body, and the Little Boy said that he was, but that he didn't know how to do it. We told him not to worry, we would help him with that.
Tom invited the Little Boy to pick which element he wanted to release the burden to: earth, air, fire, water, light, or anything else that might seem right.
Adult Tom and the child consulted together, and the Little Boy decided on air. Then, in the magical way of the inner world, the Little Boy found that he was able to let the darkness spill out of his body and rise up into the bright sky all around him. Once it was dissipated into the heavens, it was gone forever.
The spirit guides had been watching all the while, but then they suddenly came in and took the work beyond the scope of IFS therapy – they took the Little Boy back in time until he reached the age before he had been emotionally damaged.
They told Tom they would take care of “regrowing” the Little Boy while he stayed in the forest, and that it was Tom's job to meditate and bring light into both the Little Boy's and his own chest, so that this light would fill the space that had once been occupied by the dark patch.
The process went on over the next few weeks, as the Little Boy showed us more of his painful memories. The burdens began to spill out.
The next one was a yellow ball of dull energy in his stomach, connected to feelings of anxiety and sense of loss. The guides brought the Little Boy to a beach, where they had him take the yellow ball out of his body and hurl it high up into the air, where dissipated in the water.
After the yellow ball was gone, Tom saw another burden, a red ball of anger that had been underlying the yellow one. The next week we went straight to work on the red ball, and like the yellow ball, the guides helped the Little Boy throw it into the vastness of the ocean.
The final step in the IFS process is to fill the space the burden occupied with qualities that are more helpful and positive. If this is not done, there is a danger that the burden will find its way back to its old home inside the part.
In this case the qualities the Little Boy brought in were confidence and self-trust, and with the guides' encouragement, he filled himself with the thought that, “There's no need to feel unworthy, none of this was your fault.”
And below the red ball – a blue ball! This one was the sadness the Little Boy had felt in relation to his mother. He did not throw this ball into the water, but up into the sky, where it just disappeared. The replacing quality, appropriately enough, was happiness.
And the Little Boy's final burden that day showed itself as a blue half disc in his stomach, which contained his loneliness. Like the blue ball, he gave this up to the air, and he replaced it with love.
Despite of all he had let go of, there was more for the Little Boy to do. The next burden he found when scanning his body was a green gas that lived in his lower chest area.
The guides told the Little Boy to dig a hole in the ground, and when he did that, they pulled the gas out of his body, and poured it into the hole, so that it could be dissipated into the earth.
The guides worked with the Little Boy so quickly that we did not even have time to figure out what the green gas signified, emotionally. They simply told the Little Boy to cover the hole, and that this burden should be replaced with strength and confidence.
The Little Boy didn't know how to do this, so the guides coached him by taking him into the forest and showing him how the trees exemplified those qualities with their durability, and they explained to the Little Boy that really he already had those qualities all along. Then he was able to invite the qualities of strength and confidence into himself, where they would remain.
The final burden we found was a small dark spot in the Little Boy's chest. It was dark as charcoal, and felt like a void inside him. It embodied the Little Boy's jealousy and anger towards his father.
A guide took him to a cliff edge and told the Little Boy to jump down into a pool far below.
At first the Little Boy was afraid to do it, but with the guide's encouragement, and the words, “You can do whatever you want if you trust”, the Little Boy was finally able to overcome his fear and take the leap. He landed in the pool and joyfully swam until the dark spot was cleaned out. Then he went back to being a kid having fun in the mountains.
The Anxietal Part Gets Its Turn
Now the Little Boy was healed of his emotional wounds, it was Tom who could be the one who took care of him. In other words, the Anxietal Part no longer had a job, and so it was freed up to do its own healing.
But before it could do that, Tom had to get to know the Anxietal Part too, and he also had to get to know its nemesis, the Frustrated Part, which had also been protecting the Little Boy, but in an opposite way.
The Anxietal Part was all about fear. It told us it was always “waiting for the axe to fall”, and had “a craving to escape change”, and to procrastinate. It was, paradoxically, angry at Tom for getting drunk or high to excess, even though it knew its insatiable anxiety was what the drinking and drug use were often assuaging.
All this drove the Frustrated Part crazy, because he saw the best way of getting out of the zone of bad feelings was to stop fretting, take the bull by the horns, and get things done. It didn't help that the Anxietal Part's main articulated goal was “to keep Tom comfortable and where he should be”.
The guides chose the Anxietal Part to be the first in letting go of its burdens. Protector parts themselves are frozen in time, and quite often they believe the adult self is only a little older than the young part they have been protecting.
When we asked the Anxietal Part how old it thought Tom was, it said he was about twelve years old.
When Tom let it know how old he really was, and how much he had accomplished in his life, the Anxietal Part was hugely relieved, and it started to tell Tom about what it had been through, just as the Little Boy had done earlier.
It said that all it knew was suffering, and that it had absorbed all the pain for Tom when during the times his mother was drinking, when he was in boarding school, and when his father had so ponderously and obviously favored his sisters over him.
Having told its story to Tom, the part was then able to show him its burden, which was a ball of red pain so large it filled the part's body.
Here, the guides took leadership again. They took Tom and the Anxietal Part to the ocean, and they helped the Anxietal Part compress all that pain into one small red ball, which the part was only able to do with a huge effort of will. Then, with the help of the guides again, he shot the red ball out into the ocean.
As this was happening, a fast-sequence jumble of words went through Tom's head, as all the part's bad memories came pouring out like a DVD on super fast forward. Once the red ball was out, the Anxietal Part collapsed to the ground with exhaustion.
One of the guides put his hand over the part's stomach and started to heal the exit wound the burden had left through. With that, the Anxietal Part was able to invite in the replacing qualities of confidence, trust, and faith.
The guides then took the part to the house in the mountains to recover. Days and nights flashed by in fast sequence, as the guides told Tom, “Time doesn't exist here.” The sun rose and fell, while the stars came out and then faded in quick succession.
The Anxietal Part let it be known that it should now be called the Confident Part, and it was soon up and about, out of its bed, cracking jokes and being a big, fun, boisterous guy. Although he remained a while in the convalescent home, Confident Guy was now healed.
The Nervous Part
Unknown to anyone, under the Anxietal Part in Tom's body was another part, which Tom named the Nervous Part. Even Confident Guy was amazed that the Nervous Part was there.
The Nervous Part's main issue was self-trust, and it had been formed around the car accident we mentioned earlier. It told Tom he “didn't listen” to his parents when they told him to go away to camp, and as a result of the accident, it completely lost faith in his ability to take care of himself. It was filled with worries of “what if, what if, and what if?“
As the part chained back in memories, it went to the time when Tom was younger still, and spent a summer at his grandparents' house while his mother was in a drug rehab.
Although Tom looked happy on the surface, he was tense and worried underneath. He didn't know what was going to happen to him if things went badly for his mother, and the Nervous Part became convinced that for Tom there was no margin of error where danger was concerned.
As time passed, this part also took ownership of relationship concerns. It worried about the way Tom often chose to go against his instincts and stay with women that he knew were not right for him.
“Trust your feelings and your intuition; don't blindly go on impulse,” the part told Tom, while for itself it said, “I want to rest, but I can't” – because it still had to keep Tom from making bad decisions.
Tom pointed out to the part that a lot of his drinking and drug use – which he did not like – happened in order to quiet down the unbearable agitation of the Nervous Part.
The Nervous Part understood, but was as powerless to change itself as a wound is to stop hurting.
Here the guides came in again. As usual, there were two of them, one sitting by each of Tom's shoulders, giving a sense of massive presence behind him. They told the part that its perspective was limited, and that “even the bad choices may have been good choices” in the bigger picture.
The guides told the part that though it had been trying to play the role of intuition, it didn't have real access to wisdom, so it had been making it up as it went along – just doing the best it could. With their help, they told the part, it could really help heal, and become “a staff for Tom's intuition”.
Then they sent a message to me as therapist, “We can take it from here,” which was certainly a first for me.
The guides called on Confident Guy to be part of the effort to help the Nervous Part.
Tom could see the Nervous Part as a little like Gollum in the movie The Lord of the Rings – thin and sallow, with flaky, wrinkled skin. He was empty inside, like someone starving, but in there was a yellow-brownish ball, which was his burden.
Confident Guy gave him a pat on the butt, like a sports player, took a deep breath, and blew light into him.
The Nervous Part grew a little more confident in his ability to change after this, but he was still filled with questions, like, “Are people going to like me after this?”
The guides took him to the shore that had become a familiar place for unburdenings.
Confident Guy told the Nervous Part, “You just have to lie there, you don't have to do anything,” and then he put his hands on the Nervous Part's head and filled him with confident white light. Then the brown-yellow muck drained out of the Nervous Part's body and went into the sky and up to the sun.
The Nervous Part felt weak and drained after this process, but was holding on, even though he was convinced the effort could kill him. Apparently the Nervous Part was a part of Confident Guy, aka the Anxietal Part.
Yes, that's right, parts do have parts as well, and these parts too can be healed. And no, the process does not become endless, because what you are unburdening is a finite number of traumatic memories. All things do come to an end.
The two guides then took over from Confident Guy. They put the Nervous Part on a gurney and summoned a number of other guides to help. Tom couldn't get a good sense of these other guides, except that one of them was Asian.
This guide team took the Nervous Part to a hot spring by the house in the mountains, with the intention of purifying him there.
Despite his exhaustion, Nervous Guy still had more to do. The guides fed him with coconut milk, and this did not just nourish him, it rejuvenated him into being a young man.
He nervously asked if the burden was all gone, and the guides answered that what he needed was “repetitive trust”, meaning that he should trust over and over again that everything would work out.
They then took him to the top of a waterfall and told him that when he was ready he should jump off.
“You're crazy!” was the Nervous Part's answer.
The guides responded with, “We will always take care of you, in this life and the next. There's only death because you are afraid of it. Nothing can hurt who you truly are. Pain is only in everyone's mind.”
Some children came in, and encouraged Nervous Part to jump off, and Confident Guy showed him how to do it by jumping off himself, and landing in a pool below.
At last, the Nervous Part took the plunge. He went careening down through the air, and just before he was going to hit the rocks below, a huge hand came out and put a giant pillow under him.
When he landed, he told Tom that he could get a taste for this “excited/scared” feeling, and with that, the Nervous Part completed its healing.
The guides told him he that needed to practice patience, and with their help he made a new name for himself – the Patient Self. Like the others, he returned for his recuperation to the house in the mountains.
The guides then spoke to Tom and told him to “Meditate on trust. Procrastination and laziness came from self-mistrust. Meditate on your breath, on being present in your experience, and trust that we are here.”
The next piece of the message was for both Tom and me: “We are always present, it's you that can't see us. All there is, is presence. You'll figure it out, both of you. If you want us to be there we will be, but we're always there. A drop of water is the whole sea. You see us as separate drops, but you have to relate to the whole ocean, not the drops. Practice relaxing to realize us.”
The Frustrated Part Gets Its Turn
We had been working at such a breakneck speed that I hardly had time to ask how all this inner work was affecting Tom's daily life. He told me that since we had started, the anxiety that had plagued him before was just about gone, he felt much more confident and self-reliant, and now for the first time he could take stressful situations in stride.
With this, he went inside, and the guides took him on to the next stop in his inner journey – the Frustrated Part.
This one had been the nemesis of the Anxietal Part, and like the Anxietal Part it had been in the business of protecting the Little Boy.
In his body, Tom experienced the Frustrated Part in the right side of his solar plexus, but in his mind's eye he saw the part as an angry guy with his hands on his hips and a pulsating aura of red rage vibrating all around him. The part was so frustrated that Tom found him frustrating to even look at!
The Frustrated Part gave Tom a string of memories from his childhood, and the stories that unfolded focused mainly on his mother, her drinking excesses, and how he saw her as fragile and naïve. This meant that even in times when she was doing fine, he remained vigilant and ready to switch into the caretaker roles if she suddenly fell apart.
This level of watchfulness fostered in Tom an almost hyper-perceptive ability to read and take in other people's moods. He became so sensitive to others that in his adult life he sometimes struggled to tell whether he was feeling his own mood or someone else's.
He felt this particularly powerfully with his father, but also sometimes in a business meeting he would have to scan the room and track the person who was the source of an unexpected emotion. Once he did that he would be able to put up an emotional barrier to shield himself.
“Watch the wave, don't get on the wave,” the guides advised about this.
The Frustrated Part explained that there was a certain power that he gave to Tom in dealing with the world. “Frustration leads you to action,” he said, and he was very wary of giving that power up.
When we asked him what life had been like before he became frustrated, he went all the way back to two years old, giving Tom a picture of himself riding on a tricycle-like toy, happy, open, and – strange for one so young – compassionate toward those around him.
Very soon after this, the Frustrated Part was ready to let go of its burden – mainly, I suspect, because so much healing had already been done with the Little Boy and his protectors.
The Frustrated Part felt his burden as a rock in his belly, and it was from that rock that the red anger was coming.
The guides took him to the place beside the ocean, and there he threw that heavy rock into the waters. Not all the rage was gone, so the guides lay him in the water as if they were doing a baptism.
The Frustrated Part felt himself sinking, and he started to feel afraid.
One guide held his hand, while the other blew air into his mouth so that he could breathe underwater. Then he calmed, and sat on the ocean floor, meditating.
After some time, the Frustrated Part was ready to come out from the ocean. He was now a pale white color, and the radiating aura of red rage had dissipated into the ocean.
The guides laid him on the shore, where he was able to get new energy through the rays of the sun. “Compassion is stronger than frustration,” they told him. “Compassion is the strongest power. Compassion equals salvation.”
The Frustrated Part was able to absorb this message from the guides through the heat/light coming from the sun. The guides replaced the empty place where the rock of anger had been with a green gem that glowed from the part's heart. Then the guides massaged him, and they flew him to the recovery place in the mountains.
He was weak and overwhelmed, but laughing, and like all the other parts that had been healed, he was able to spend time at the house, growing stronger.
The guides then had some words for Tom. They wanted him to spend some time by the water that weekend, and to practice replacing frustration with compassion. “Always compassion, true compassion will never rob you,” they said. “Compassion for your mother or the man on the street – don't judge who should get it. Don't be afraid to give compassion. You're very good at it already.”
Then they gave Tom a picture of that compassionate, open, “pre-frustrated” Little Boy on the tricycle. He glowed in white light, smiled, and wheeled away.
“Keep that Little Boy in your heart,” advised the guides. “When it's not about you, you can accomplish anything. Yourself is often an obstacle to what you can do. Take yourself out of it. Spend some time with your Mom this weekend; she needs it. She teaches you compassion.”
By the following week, when we visited the Frustrated Part, he was hanging out in the house in the mountains, cracking jokes and enjoying himself.
But when Tom showed up, the part chose to leave the mountain and live with Tom in the present, which apparently is where all the other parts that had been through the healing had taken themselves to as well. They welcomed him heartily, and he told them – not surprisingly – that he had a new name now: the Compassionate Part.
Tom did his homework well. His mother lived near the sea in Long Island, so over that weekend he went to visit her. He found that his new attitude of compassion towards his mother created a flow between them, so that she was less caught in the negative spiral they so often fell into.
Like he usually did, he invited her to come to the beach with him, expecting her, like usual, to say no. But this time she did come, and they spent a full afternoon together, appreciating each other and the element of water.
Time For Sex
In just over three months, Tom had transformed his anxiety. But the most personal of his issues – the fear of intimate relationships – was unchanged. Tom now felt ready to address this, and he was quickly able to find the part of himself that held this fear.
This part was located in Tom's solar plexus, and the reason he had not reached it before was that it had been hidden under the Anxietal Part and the Nervous Part. We called it Fear Guy, and it went back further than any of the other parts, though recent bad relationships had badly rankled the old wounds.
Fear Guy told Tom that it had formed around his fraught relationships with his parents, and from the relationship styles he had inherited from them.
He had grown up with three women, his mother and his two older sisters. Though their verbal message had always been to respect women, what he learned from them as role models was that females get hurt and abused.
As he heard them, the message was “Female good, male bad.” And try as he might to be a nice guy, he was, unalterably, of the male tribe.
It didn't help that, like many Little Boys of his time, Tom's main sex education came from dirty jokes and absurd misinformation from his peers, while his education on the emotional side of love came from the overblown romantic imagery of movies and TV.
The guides told him, “You need male and female inside, a divine balance. Sex and creation, not sex and recreation.” They told him that sex needs to be a more sacred act in our culture.
Tom and I got interested in this and started to open up a discussion on the topic, but the guides broke in and told us to get back on track.
So, we did, and went to Fear Guy. He was so frightened he didn't know his role for Tom, and he said he was too scared to do anything protective.
Although he remembered Tom losing his openness to relationship around the age of twelve, his memories went all the way back to being born, and then into the womb. While Tom was in the womb, the relationship between his mother and his father was practically at an end. He could feel that his mother was devastated, especially because she was pregnant.
Tom took on his mother's fear, and her sadness, and it settled there in the baby's solar plexus. Even in the delivery room, he could feel the tension between his father and his mother.
The guides then went on to say something that was paradigm-shifting for both of us: this bad start was not an accident. Tom himself had helped set things up this way, as part of what he needed to learn during this lifetime. And because of this difficult start to life, he was given an extra amount of white light, or higher energy, to help shield him and help him deal with this issue. The whole thing was an exercise in compassion.
“Who are you?”, was the question the guides posed to Tom. “There is something for you to do.”
Just as with any other part, we worked with the baby and invited him to give up his burden of fear and sadness. The burden looked like the white light that had been sent to help Tom, but it was trapped inside the baby's solar plexus, and bound by metal clasps in a tightly wound ball. The ball of light had solidified as it absorbed all the negativity it possibly could.
The guides told Tom they would now release the burden not from the baby, but from Tom's own body.
In his mind's eye they took Tom to the beach, and as he relaxed and concentrated, the ball of white light shot up into the clouds. The clouds grew darker and darker and then a huge storm with a gigantic downpour erupted.
Tom raged against the ferocity of the storm; he tried to hide from it in the ocean, but there was absolutely no place to go.
When it was almost beyond Tom's endurance, the storm finally abated. He felt the metal bars that went around the ball of light go ping, the sun came out and Tom fell exhausted on the beach. The white light, instead of being constricted into a tight ball, now hovered as a cloud inside him, and the Fear Part was also much less confined.
For me, the one facing Tom in his rocking chair, there was absolutely no visible sign of this drama was taking place – Tom sat there quite still, a little restless at times. Then he described what had happened, and I took notes.
“Let It Be,” Said The Guides
In the next sessions, Tom looked more closely at his specific fears around relationships.
When Tom located Fear Guy, it was covered with a thick, urine-yellow substance of the consistency of wet honey, and Fear Guy was not even visible underneath.
Fear Guy was able to show Tom what it had been through, especially in recent relationships, where there had been a lot of pain, self-mistrust, and a lack of balance. Often he had put sex before the relationship, or used sex as a way of proving to himself that he could satisfy another person.
Fear Guy told Tom to not be afraid.
The guides said, “You are constantly changing. Every relationship is different. Acceptance is key – accept the pain you went through.”
Fear Guy went on to say, “Through sex you are grasping at immortality,”
Then the guides chimed in with, “How beautiful. Don't be afraid of death. You are already dead. Death is in each moment, so is life. Our suffering comes when we separate them. When you find the one you would balance with, you will understand more. Don't worry.”
Tom was able to link his grasping in relationships to his grasping towards his mother when he was a kid. He asked the guides how he could loosen his hold on that grasping.
The guides told him to “practice commitment, it's not always about you”. They told him that he gave so much in relationship partly out of true compassion, and partly out of neediness.
“It's okay to have sex,” they went on, “you were confused. You mistook sex for love. You will learn to respect sex as sacred. Open yourself to possibilities of sex in everything you do – the balance of male and female.”
They went on to say, “Don't be so hard on yourself. You've done a great job of learning your lessons. Let it go – it's a New Moon.”
With that, the guides took Fear Guy to some hot springs in the usual place in the mountains. They dropped him into the hot springs, where all the yellow gooey stuff dropped off him and melted through the water and into the earth.
Then, when Tom looked at the person who had been under all that mess, it was – himself!
The Tom in the water went red with heat, as if he was in a sauna, and then, to replace the fear, the guides filled him with emerald-green light from his heart chakra.
“Open up to the possibilities of the future, and let go of the past,” they told him. “Those relationships don't define who you are now. Change by extending yourself selflessly. Believe in the light and extend it to other people. We are all the source. As you connect, the light gets brighter and brighter. Accept your desire, don't try to repress it. It too is of the Source.”
Then they told Tom that more of the learning about this would come in a journey to India he was planning to go on later in the year.
Finally in that session, we cleaned up the last piece of the previous week's work. The “nuts and bolts” which had been part of the casing around the ball of white light had fallen off and landed inside of Tom's body.
The guides took him to the ocean, where he summoned up the nuts and bolts and threw them into the water. They represented a false sense of who he was and where he came from.
“The light is everywhere all over,” the guides said. “You have more to work on in this and other issues.”
Insecurity That Bleeds
The following week we got on with the “more work”.
When Tom focused on the remaining feelings of insecurity he had about relationships, he could feel a discomfort and agitation in his solar plexus. His most recent relationship, which had been very destructive, was in his words, “the last straw” to trusting that relationships could work.
When I asked Tom to see the part that carried this insecurity, he saw himself at around age eighteen, in a cell-like room, on a cold stone floor. The part lived in fear that he would never have a fulfilling relationship again. It also lived in a state of perpetual confusion and frailty.
The guides said about this part, “It's not the real you, it's a perception. Grasping at a fixed personality is what keeps him in place.”
Though Tom and I had been in the habit of seeing his insecurity as coming from a difficult childhood, the guides were now saying that the cause of this insecurity was not so much what happened in the past as the beliefs he generated about those experiences – and continued to generate.
I asked Tom to invite the part to leave the cold room for somewhere more comfortable.
The part was not even aware that there was an outside world, and it was the guides who took him to a field outside. He was frail and naked, and they wrapped him in a blanket and gave him tea.
The part was a little stunned that he was no longer in his cell, and the guides told Tom that the issue of insecurity and the issue of pain in relationships went back into many past lives. They said that the pain Tom had gone through in this life was a balancing-out process for pain he had both endured and inflicted during past lives. Even the neglect from his father that Tom had as a baby was part of this balancing process, and the balancing had gone on up to the present day.
I became curious about these past lives, but the guides told us that right now what Tom had to do was work on this lifetime, and he would work on past lives later.
It was becoming increasingly clear that the guides wanted Tom to complete a certain kind of preparation work and cleaning up of his kharma before he left for India, and that they weren't in a mood to be distracted. “Your whole childhood was the building up of a dysfunctional fantasy of what a relationship should be – the drama, betrayal, negativity, and so on. You used your negative imagination to create that.”
The part then showed Tom how painful it had been to go through this cavalcade of fractured and disastrous relationships, stretching from the teen years to the present day.
The part showed how crazy partying, drinking, drugs, betrayal, irrational rage, and excessive care-taking, had all been bound together by sexual need.
The part showed Tom how this sexual connection and the wish to be a care-taker had fueled his staying with women long after he knew they were not right for him. And after he broke up from relationships, he often went through a very dark time.
“That was when the blinders really came on,” Tom remarked.
The guides were very positive about it. “These are the lessons,” they said. “You cannot and will not repeat these. You are learning from a thousand lifetimes ago, today.”
And Tom had an image of a nexus of converging webs fitting beautifully together, and through this image he could see that the work he was doing today had a reverberating effect through these many lifetimes going back into his personal histories.
But the details of this, and what went on in those lifetimes, he didn't need to know right now.
So, the guides took all of Tom's attachment to this drama and this agony, put it in a big orange garbage bag, and threw it out!
Of insecurity they said, “You have to let it go and pay it no mind.”
I had Tom ask that eighteen-year-old part if it was ready to give up its burden of pain from its many negative experiences.
It was, so Tom asked the part to scan its body and see if there was anything there that did not belong there.
At first the part thought that everything it needed to get rid of had been in that garbage bag, but then it found a black sliver, thin as a razor blade, going right across the middle of its body.
The guides told us that this burden came from Tom's relationship with his father, in which he created the belief that he “needs to be accepted by acting or thinking a certain way”.
Tom pulled the black thing out of the part's body and threw it into a fire made by the guides. Blood came pouring out of the part and over Tom, and the part melted into the earth, and from that spot a large purple flower on a long green stem grew up.
Tom's problem now was that he had this blood all over him.
The guides took him to some woods in the place in the mountain. It was night time, and there was a pool nearby.
The guides had Tom jump into the pool, and told him to “wash off all the blood from the past”. But the blood was not coming off so easily, so the guides shot some sparkling energy into the pool, and this at last helped him get clean.
“There's no need to fear anything. You know that. Fill the empty prison (the one the eighteen-year-old had been in) with love. Go to your roof tonight and meditate on the Moon, and fill the prison with love”, they instructed him.
It turned out that that was the night of the Full Moon. “This is a sacred night,” the guides continued. “People don't know that any more. For you, tonight is a big step.”
Tom immediately associated the moon with female energy, just as the sun can be seen to embody male energy. This meditation was part of the balancing he had to do.
At this point Tom remarked with curiosity that only one of the guides ever spoke to him. We had been going at such a breakneck speed that we had never asked why the others remained silent, so we took the opportunity to ask that now.
The guide answered, “Only one of us talks. He speaks from the Source, the all-unifying. You will come to know us better – one thing at a time.”
What Tom got from that was that identity in the spirit world is not perceived the way we see it here. If you live in a world where that Source is love, then each guide, each person, is an ultimate and yet interchangeable embodiment of the love. So when the “spokesguide” talked to us, it was that spirit alone talking and all of them talking as well.
Real Men, Real Women – And The Fairies
By the next session, when Tom checked in, he had completed his moon meditation on the roof of his building, and the prison that he had felt in his chest had now become an open area with sun and blue skies above.
In their relentless forward motion, the guides led us towards the next piece of work with the cryptic words “shelter”, and “love”.
Tom had until now sheltered his ability to love, and it had been bound up with a fear of losing something. “True love, not attachment,” the guides added.
Tom went to that fear of losing something in relationships, and he came up with the image of a man holding a heart embedded in a circle. The man's image was dull and lacking in life, while next to him was the image of a woman, crushed into the ground.
“Balance,” said the guides, and the theme that was emerging was that his sexual relationships were often one-sided and too deeply invested in his ego identity.
“Selfless love without depletion” was to be Tom's goal, said the guides, and they pointed to his mother to help work on that imbalance.
Tom returned to the ground of having his mother and his two sisters teach him respect for women while in their own lives they didn't reflect this. Even as a child this led to Tom becoming disillusioned about love relationships, and inside himself he began to blame his mother for his father's leaving while still feeling angry and betrayed by his father.
Perceiving his mother as weak made it easy for the prevailing viewpoint of the culture to enter him, and Tom easily saw young women purely as sex objects. And this in turn created the usual dissonance between this crudity and the romantic fairy-tale endings of TV and movies.
“Know where you stand and stand on what you know,” the guides counseled him.
We looked to the male and female images that had arisen and asked the guides how we could help the man become more vibrant.
They told Tom the man had to be brought to the sun, and the guides began by bringing him to the familiar cliff face.
At this point the man was like a cardboard cutout. As he stood at the top of the cliff the sun came out and blasted him with its rays, until the real man broke out of the shell that encased him.
“Real men have dignity, and they respect the opposite sex,” said the guides, as they instructed the man to leap off the cliff and into the water below.
He did that, and swimming in those waters, he was strong and agile.
Sitting on a rock behind the waterfall was what Tom identified as a fairy woman, who gave the man her blessing.
The guides went on to tell Tom that the biggest block to the truth for him was his “constantly looking at the other sex”. They emphasized that sex is divine love, and they went on to say that in our culture the true woman and the true man are dying out.
“It begins with thought – the way you look at women and men. There is no divide. There is no night, no day, no man, no woman. You extend to someone else as if you were extending to yourself. Always ask what your intention is.”
The guides then told Tom he would work on this more on the trip to India, which was now just a few weeks away.
The True Man that Tom had uncovered then went back to the woman, who was still embedded in the ground.
We asked if we could help her, as we had helped the man.
At first the guides were a little doubtful, but then they agreed that some work could be started now.
“Look at the moon with respect,” said the guides, and Tom saw the woman still embedded in the ground.
“She's not what you think. She's stronger than you think,” the guides told him.
He could see now that unlike the man, she was already vibrant and healthy, just stuck.
“You'll be okay,” she told Tom, and she smiled down at the fairy woman, who was still among the rocks below the waterfall.
“Men don't take care of women, we take care of each other,” said the guides. “She's still dark and she's still like a hollow shell, but you will fill her up with moon energy.”
What they meant was that during the coming week Tom would continue the internal work, and he would help the woman, just as he had already helped the man.
More and more now, Tom seemed to start an internal project in a session with me, and complete the work between sessions.
Tom was spending much of the coming week with his mother, who was coming back from a short stay in the hospital. The guides told him he could use this as an opportunity to heal his relationship with his mother and the female energy.
The guides then said a strange thing: “It's already done. You're already enlightened. There's nowhere to go, you're already there, but keep going anyway. We're proud of you both [meaning Tom and me].”
And then just as Tom was leaving, a funny coincidence: I gave him a book on alchemy I had found that related to the previous week's session. The illustration on the cover was from a medieval manuscript, and it showed a naked man standing beside a naked woman. His face was the sun, and her face was the moon.
The Final Fear
When Tom came into the next session, he had handed in his notice at his job and quit his apartment. He wanted to work on an excited but fearful feeling that he got from cutting these ties and getting ready to leave for India.
When I invited Tom to go inside, he centered himself, took a deep breath, and found the fearful feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“It's making me tired a lot of the time,” Tom said, and noted that it was rooted in his difficulty with trusting himself.
As he got to know this part, he found that it was frantically checking everything that he did. Because it could only feel safe when absolutely everything was perfect and beyond reproach, it effectively made sure that nothing ever got done.
Tom also noticed that the part seemed to be on autopilot and was not very well tuned in to reality. But he did notice that it wanted to be helped.
When Tom pictured this part it showed itself as a frantic person who was moving his hands so quickly you could not see its face. Behind the figure glowed a dull, reddish light.
At first Tom saw the fear as “fear of success” but soon he came to see that the Fearful Part's annoying perfectionism came from the usual fear we have – fear of failure.
The Fearful Part's messages were, “You can't do this,” “You'll fall flat on your face if you try,” “What if you put your whole life into this project and it fails?”
It was lost in a sense of defeat, failure and wrong decisions. Although it kept Tom busy starting out on many exciting projects, it saw them as a charade of false activity, masking the fact that he was always on the brink of being uncovered as a sham.
As Tom relaxed in the face of this part, it was able to trust him and show him memories linked to its distress.
The first was when he was eight or nine years old, and the people around him were telling him “You're going to be great,” no doubt thinking they were boosting his sense of self-worth. But what it did was make him feel unworthy of their great expectations.
Then came a later memory from when he was a teenager. He was in a pizza place telling his dad that he wanted to go into the advertising business for a career.
His dad conveyed a complete disbelief that Tom would be able to do that, leaving young Tom sick at heart and deeply crushed.
Then came a quick series of memories around his being the kid of divorced parents always moving from school to school, so that he always felt like an outsider with something to prove, even when a new group of friends seemed to accept him.
The Fearful Part was feeling a particular lack of confidence around Tom quitting his job, and in recent weeks this had led to conflict with Confident Guy, who had no time for such irresolution.
Tom sometimes turned to heavy drinking or smoking a lot of marijuana to get some respite from this conflict, and he didn't feel great about doing that.
But Confident Guy had already gone through its own transformation, and that helped my own belief that Confident Guy could go from being part of the problem to part of the healing.
Actually, Confident Guy took on the project with pleasure, and instead of the usual polarization and wrangling, he gave the Fearful Part a short pep talk.
“I was just like you myself, and I changed,” he said. “We're all in this together, and not only that – we've got spirit guides!”
Tom and I laughed, but that's exactly what got the Fearful Part ready to begin its unburdening. It could feel its burden as black rocks, sitting heavily in the pit of its stomach.
The guides took the Fearful Part to the usual cliff face, but to a different part. They gave the Fearful Part a syrupy drink from a brown glass bottle, and this helped him vomit the black rocks up. Then they gave him another drink, from a white bottle, to help soothe him.
The part was now feeling quite weak, but the guides had more they needed him to do.
The impulse that led to his earlier frantic, flurrying hand movements was still there, and it had to go. So to quieten it, the guides lifted his body up above the cliffs and told him to breathe in deeply.
He did, and the action froze him quite still, in mid-air. Then he melted under the heat of the sun, and suddenly shot down into the water below.
After he had been in the water a little while, the power of the sunlight reached down and lifted him up out of the water and penetrated him with the message: “You are worthy.”
Now excited, the part dropped back into the water, swam joyously about, and then went running over the grass.
In a gesture of celebration Confident Guy somersaulted off the cliff and landed flat on the ground on his feet! He told the ex-Fearful Part that he would help him clean out his apartment.
The guides then turned to Tom himself. The reddish light that had been the backdrop to the initial image of the Fearful Part still existed, but inside Tom's body.
With a guide at each shoulder, a third guide came up in front of him and shot sunlight into his chest.
“Don't believe a word anyone tells you,” they said to Tom, addressing his propensity to take in negative messages. “It's all perfect. This goes back to your unworthy feelings about relationships too.”
Tom's Fearful Part had been involved with a belief system that said every time he found a girlfriend who was attractive, or whom he liked, that his faults would soon be found out and he would be dumped.
The guides cleared this out by removing a black wall that ran across the front of Tom's chest.
The guides then told Tom to go to the ocean as soon as he could, to meditate there and seal in the work he had done today. They told him that they would quietly keep working on him until then.
“Don't worry, have fun,” they said. “Sometimes worry makes you withdraw from the fun you could be having. You are pure spirit, just like us, and nothing can destroy that.”
Then all the guides lined up around Tom, and among them was an image of himself.
“This is only the beginning,” came in as a message. “You are part of the infinite. The veils will keep on being lifted. You already have everything you want, you are part of everything.”
And with that, we finished.
Drugs, Liquor, And Then More Drugs
Tom picked his tendency to do things to excess, including drinking alcohol and doing drugs as his task for the next session. He had been meditating on this during the week, so it was not hard for him to find the parts clustered around the issue.
One was a part that does things to excess, and the other was a part polarized with this, that judged his every move. Tom knew that somehow both parts came from his mother.
The first image he found was of the Excess Part. It was a man slavishly stuffing his face.
All kinds of reactions to this – judgment, embarrassment, sadness and guilt – found the strength to step back so that Tom could get to know this part better. That let Tom get to see the Young Boy that Excess Guy was protecting.
The Young Boy grew up with excess all around him – his mother, her friends, and his sisters all drank to excess, and in the house excess was the norm, not the exception. The young Tom did not join this at first, but at last he did, and it soon became a habit.
Everyone saw him as a good kid, and he was, but his own excesses were hidden. He smoked his first cigarette at age twelve and his first joint at fourteen. As a younger kid he was often left in the house alone, and he would sit there watching TV with the lights out, eating junk food until he was stuffed full and sick. He ate to blunt his depression, knowing full well that the stuffed feeling would leave him more depressed than ever.
Around the age of eleven or twelve, the depression was getting the better of him, and he went from being an honor student in school to failing in all his subjects.
As Tom went deeper into the feeling tone of those evenings, he saw that he felt alone and abandoned. “I didn't want to be where I was, and the food was a fleeting escape,” was how he put it.
The kids he chose to hang out with, including his first girlfriend, were also silently abandoned children. His girlfriend had rich parents who were never home, leaving her with the run of their enormous house.
Many of his friends were in a far worse place than him, but all along he was in the business of trying to reach that “perfect” state of feeling great, whether it was with the next cookie or the next hit. Only by feeling “great” could he avoid feeling lousy.
So even when he was involved in healthy activities, like photo-journalism, surfing, running, or eating well, he always took it to the extreme. All these activities were really a makeshift pain management plan, and the strategy had been wearing thin for some little while.
The guides then floated this question: “What's right, and what's wrong?” meaning, how do you find balance between extremes?
“Moderation is the place of balance,” they said. “and discipline is the doorway.” They told him to look for patience and consistency.
Tom recalled how hard it must have been for his mother, working, raising three children on her own, and needing her own time to de-stress. It was an environment that often came down to “watch movies, eat crap food and have your own stuff to do.”
He and his friends did crazy, dangerous things, like throwing rocks at cars, and playing dangerously on roof tops, just to relieve the boredom and the pent-up feelings with an adrenaline rush. And as he reached his teen years it was natural that the adrenaline rush would be supplied by drugs.
“The senses are only one part,” the guides said. They showed a triangle superimposed over an image of Tom. The top of the triangle was at his head, and this was his thinking. Over his chest on the right hand side, the bottom of the triangle was his sense perceptions in the physical world, and on the left hand side was spirit.
“Excess in one part of the triangle creates imbalance in the other two,” the guides told him, “so that excessive eating and indulgence put spirit and thinking into a state of imbalance. Breathing is a starting point to redress this imbalance. Always come back to the breath. When you go to excess you forget how good it is to breathe. Without breath there is no life, it connects everything. Breath has all the answers.”
“What about when you stop breathing?” Tom asked.
“You never stop. You always breathe. It is you,” the guides answered.
As Tom prepared there and then to throw his all into conscious breathing, the guides chuckled at him: “Learn slowly – you can be excessive on the spiritual side too!”
At this point Excess Guy broke in and said, “Hey, what about me?”
We debated this for a while, but decided that it didn't make sense to go to Excess Guy's unburdening before the Young Boy's, so we went back to the young part. Unburdening a protector first seldom works, because it doesn't make sense to disarm a guardian when the one he is guarding still needs him.
The Young Boy was in his living room, watching TV in the dark, eating from a box of junk food. At first he did not believe he could leave there, but with some persuasion, the guides took him out of that house to the fields at the top of the cliffs, in Tom's familiar landscape of healing.
Many people were there, including the Young Boy's mother and father. They all told him that they had always loved him, and that it was their own suffering that had pulled them away from him and made them distant.
The Young Boy had believed that the inconsistency in love and expressions of love had meant that there was something about him that was unlovable. Now that he understood that was wrong, he was able to open up and show his compassion towards the grown-ups.
That made him ready for the unburdening. The burden showed not as a foreign object inside him, but as a huge hollowness within his whole body.
His mother and father brought him to the cliffs and handed him over to the guides. At this point the Young Boy and Tom were one and the same.
The guides lifted him up to the sun, to fill the hollowness. He was pale blue, almost dead-looking, and also carrying a sense of shame over the fact that his mother and father had broken up.
The guides floated him up into the sun, from where he rocketed back down into the water below the cliffs. And, just as the Fearful Part had done, he came back out healthy, and then he ran around exultantly on the grass.
“Remember the good times and embrace everything that happened; it makes you stronger,” the guides told him, and Tom went into some good and happy memories.
“Don't resent your parents,” the guides said, and the Young Boy immediately released his resentment back up into the sun. It had been a heavy burden.
“You are a complete being. You don't need anything outside of you to make you complete. Going to excess is not needed. Instead of bringing things in, practice giving things out. You're better at that anyway.”
At this point I was having an interesting struggle with my own parts. The time for our session was coming quickly coming to an end. One part of me wanted to tell Tom to wind it down now, and another part was saying, “This is special, let it go as long as it needs to.”
I debated inside, but couldn't find a resolution, so I said to myself that I would give the question over to the guides, and let them make the call.
Two seconds later Tom suddenly opened up his eyes and said he was done for the day.
“Thanks guys,” I said to the guides, and we were done.
The next week we checked in with the Young Boy. He told us that he now felt loved and secure, and the reason he had gone to “other things” like junk food, alcohol and drugs had been to feel the security and bliss he so greatly missed.
Tom realized this over the weekend while he was at a party where a bunch of his friends were heavily drinking shots. Without really debating about it, he just had a couple of beers. Already Excess Guy had been affected by the last week's work.
So, we went to Excess Guy. He wasn't stuffing his face anymore, he was just sitting there in a daze.
The Judging Voice, who seemed to come from Tom's mom, was able to step back and let us work with Excess Guy.
Excess Guy took Tom to memories of his father's house, after his father had split with his mother.
His mother, at least, had tried to get him to eat well, but at his dad's house he had access to all the forbidden fruit that he wanted – soda, Doritos, chips, and late night TV. He wasn't being misguidedly given too many treats, he was just being left to fend for himself.
The words, “A cheap substitute for a father,” came into Tom's mind, and with that a part of Excess Guy that was angry came up.
Tom's father had often ignored him, and his stepmother was openly hostile. Tom had stuffed away his anger by eating.
Excess Guy went into the scene of the Young Boy eating all on his own, and started smashing the place up in a vengeful rage, but when he got to the father's door he cowered in fear.
We worked on the fear and the anger by reminding Excess Guy that Tom's dad had never learned how to be a father because his own father had never forged a good bond with him.
Excess Guy was not yet ready to let go of his first burden – the anger.
But then the Young Boy came in and told him, “If you let the anger go it might be easier to express it better.”
Tom said, “We don't need other people to be whole, we can start with ourselves,” and that finally helped Excess Guy get out of his stuck place and ready to let go of his burden.
The way in which Excess Guy experienced his burden was as a feeling of butterflies in his stomach.
The guides took him to a part of the cliff top Tom hadn't seen before. They told Excess Guy that what they were going to do would not hurt even though it looked like it would. They showed Tom images which were somehow gory but not distressing.
Excess Guy was put asleep on a rock overhanging the water.
One of the guides put his hand into the part's stomach and momentarily mimicked the stomach itself so that Excess Guy would not see the hand inside him and be freaked out.
The guide pulled the “butterflies feeling” out. It was gooey and stuck to the guide's hands like parasites, but he was able to throw it down into the water and get it off him. The other guides sealed the part's wound with white light.
Most of Tom's guides show as male, but here a female guide came up and kissed Excess Guy on the head and whispered,“Balance.” The kiss created a white band over Excess Guy's head, and as he lay there healing, two other guides put compassion and understanding into his chest.
“Anger doesn't fix anything,” the guides told Excess Guy, soothing the rage he felt towards his father and stepmother.
Tom had suffered from back pain for years, and this, along with other physical ailments, had been expressions of the anger.
“Anger is weakness,” the guides told Excess Guy.
Excess Guy woke up ecstatic. He went on his knees in thanks to the guides, who told him, “Go be an example to others.”
The Judgment Voice chimed in, “I'm so proud of you,” which of course was just another judgment.
“Really it's my mother's voice,” said Tom, and he knew that for all its shortcomings, it came from a place of love. It was a voice that aimed to protect him and had big dreams for him, and its intentions were always good.
Tom looked into the Judgment Voice more fully.
It wasn't only about Excess Guy, it was about just about everything he did: do better, do the best, go for it, etc. But rather than rallying Tom to achievement, it frustrated, annoyed and overwhelmed him. It quietly demanded a standard no one was going to live up to.
But the guides said, “This one's easy. We'll give her the light of understanding. Let her understand that Tom needs to make his own way in life, his own choices and decisions.”
The guides sent white light into the head of the Judgment Voice, and it was so intense that it eerily shone out from her eyes. She screamed out loud and a black, demon-like thing inside her was driven out by the light and flew away.
One of the guides shot it with a bolt of energy and froze it in place. Had he not done that, it might have entered someone else.
“I'll deal with that later,” said the guide.
The Judgment Voice looked years younger, and now that she was done with her process, she was having fun playing basketball.
She turned to Tom and said, “Have a glass of wine, have fun, be moderate.”
Then came a thank you fest.
The parts thanked the guides for the work they had done for them, and the guides thanked them back. It wasn't a pro forma thanks on the part of the guides, but it seemed this work helped them move on in their next stage of growth too.
One of the guides was walking around clearing up the psychic mess, like someone cleaning up after a surgery.
And then, quite abruptly, the guides told Tom they were done for the day, and he came back to normal consciousness.
We had some time left in the session, so I asked Tom if he would mind going back inside and asking the guides why it is that more people don't see them. Was Tom special in some way?
Tom was interested too, and it seemed that now the guides had done their work for the day, they were open to a Q&A session.
“Everything is already done,” they said. “Everything is already perfect. The difference is coming from a place of knowing or a place of ignorance. In fact, we are already perfect, but because we are ignorant of that, we suffer. Night and day are the universe's greatest trick. You can't know this, you have to experience it. But we all do know this.”
They told Tom that duality does not exist in their world, and that was why it was simultaneously day and night there, “which is why we never leave you, we are all together.”
Through Tom, I then asked the guides a question for myself. I told them that I had read that people who took psilocybin mushrooms experienced themselves moving from the lower to the higher vibrations.
Did guides live in those higher vibrations?
The guide barely answered my question, but responded to the drug issue: drug experiences, they said, are “just a postcard (from the higher realms) and you don't need to bother with them. They are so fleeting that they don't give you the substance of what it is really like. It's like the tortoise and the hare. Grasping too quickly doesn't get you what you want.”
Then they added, “The shaman knows.”
I actually know a shaman who works with the mountain shamans of Peru. As opposed to the ones in the Amazon, they do not use any psychoactive substances.
“Is the shaman a man or a woman?” I asked.
“A woman,” they replied, and I grew excited, because this shaman was indeed a woman.
“And a man,” they added jokingly. “You'll figure it out.”
They went on to say that “Imagination is everything.”
Then they added this tantalizing idea, “It's how you're sitting here in this room together, but you're not even really here. Some people don't even believe in themselves, let alone in things they can't see. Some people get to believe, and you [meaning me, Brian] will help people do this.” Then they told me that I don't see guides, I feel them, and that everyone experiences guides differently.
About me they said I know when they are there, and I can especially sense them at times like sunsets – something which I had always instinctively felt, and sunsets have always been special to me since I was a young kid.
“You know truth when you see it,” they said to me, “and see the beauty in ugly, devastated people. You've trusted that things will work out, and they have. Inward meditation,” they added, “quiets the mind.”
Then to Tom they said, “Stop self-limiting beliefs. You saw us as a child, but you never stopped believing.”
Tom confirmed a few minutes later that as a child he had played a lot on his own and seen impossible animals, like panthers and giraffes in the New England woods. He felt that this was a time when he was powerfully sensing guide energy.
“There's something deep inside you,” the guides went on, “a place that no-one else knows. If you look, you'll find it. Stop trying to get to the place of belief, just believe. It's easier said than done, but – easier done than said. Life unfolds the way it needs to; you don't need to see guides, you almost create them.”
After this session Tom knew that he needed to have a talk with his father, and ask him how he let himself be so distant and uninterested during Tom's childhood.
They spent some time together over the next weekend, and went for an early morning walk together. It seemed the perfect time to talk, but Tom didn't know how to begin. They stopped at the beach, and his father went off on his own for a while, leaving Tom with time to meditate and think.
During the meditation the guides, who by now were popping up all the time, said to Tom, “He will bring it up.”
Sure enough, when his dad came back, he gave Tom the opening he needed, and started to talk about the time when Tom was young.
Tom asked all he wanted about why his dad had been so distant, and also got to tell him how bad it had been for him. It was not an easy conversation, especially for his father, but it was a very fruitful one, where Tom got to speak his mind with simple honesty, and he and his dad became closer to each other than they had ever been before.
A theme that came to Tom during the week was black birds. A large raven landed right in front of him one day, and just stood there for a while, and on other days flocks of crows had come to him, sometimes swarming around his car.
Tom felt the meaning of this was the approach of a death and transformation cycle. The death was not to be feared, any more than we should fear dark, beautiful birds, or new life.
Having told me about this, Tom said that during the week he had also been encountering a part that had the potential of bringing him to a standstill with regrets.
This part didn't just have regrets about the past, it obsessively regretted the missed opportunities and bad choices he might make in the future. Tom could feel the part in the pit of his stomach.
The part showed itself to him as a cartoon picture of a small man with yellow eyes, covered over with some thick black substance. This guy was distraught and tense, and not able to control what he worried about.
Tom felt pretty well disposed towards this part, so he invited it to show its story to him right away.
It began with his first serious romantic relationship, where the young woman he was with bore a child whom she claimed was his but really was not.
Tom found out in time to not marry her, but even then they did not break up, and the relationship ended in great suffering a couple of years later.
The Regret Part was wrapped in thinking, “I didn't need to put myself through all that pain.”
This was its theme, and it showed him other, similar, times: when he chose to leave private school despite the chance to stay, his break-up with his most recent girlfriend, and that early memory of when he got hit by a car when he stayed home from summer camp.
The part was really stuck in these memories and could not find a wider perspective, so we asked for the guides' help a little earlier than usual.
They came in with the word, “Trust.”
“We've shown you the perfection in everything,” they said. “You can let go of this too.”
About the last girlfriend, where Tom had once again let the relationship go on too long, they said, “You can see it from the way of regret, or from the perspective of learning.”
Tom realized that it was this part's fear of having to live through more regrets that was holding him back from seeing women again.
One of the guides drew a line of white light with its finger. The line sped out to many lines, until they all criss-crossed into a vast pattern of infinite paths. The guides said to Tom that although there were infinite paths, there was only one path.
“Even recently when you thought you were way off your path in dark places, you were really on it. When you open a door just go through it, don't worry what's on the other side.”
As the guides spoke, that wider perspective gradually filtered into the Regret Part, until it had enough understanding to let go of its burden.
They went to the usual cliff-top, and the burden showed as a big case, or chest, perched on the Regret Part's back. The guides took it off his back and opened it up, revealing it to be – empty.
The Regret Part had all along taken it to be crammed with more regrets.
The guides threw the chest off the cliff, and it shattered on the rocks below.
Tom could then see that there were chains around Regret Part's body which had been connecting him to the chest. One of the guides cut the chains just by touching them with his finger.
With the burden gone, the guides put the words “unbounded trust” into the Regret Part's head, and they renamed him Truth.
“Open those doors instead of holding them shut,” they told him. Then they added the words, “Fearless truth.”
It turned out that Regret Guy was enormously important in Tom's inner system. He moved from the cliff in Tom's imagination to the center of Tom's chest, where, despite his small size, the part functioned like the keystone of an arch – all the other parts were balanced round him.
Once he was back inside Tom's chest, different lines of light connected and formed patterns coming out from him and through Tom's body.
I asked the part to scan his body one more time in case there was still another burden in there.
He did so, and at first did not find anything. But then he found a thin black hair on his hip.
The guides described it as “an ounce of regret” and said, “With that he's not pure. It's part of the lesson – not even an ounce.”
The part himself picked the hair off and blew it up into the air and into the sun, where it immediately burned up.
He then looked down at himself. The black substance that had been covering him was gone, and he could now see inside himself, where an iridescent tattoo was shining from inside him.
“It's the map of your past, and it's held by truth,” the guides said.
Then they rather mysteriously added, “The map helps you [Tom] move forwards, and it is also like a key and part of it can be turned.”
When we asked them to explain, they said, “You don't need to know more than that now. Trust.”
A new ability to trust was what Tom said he wanted on the first day of therapy. Now we were finally there.
We were getting close to Tom's leaving for India, and I wanted to know if the guides thought that there were more preparations he should do.
They told us that most of the work had now been done, and what was left was the finishing touches. What they had been doing with Tom was “cleaning out the debris”.
They told him to meditate more, especially in the mornings, and to write more too. “Each will help the other”.
And then they said that Tom was approaching a “major transformation&edquo;, and his job now was to let the work he had already done sink in.
“Relax, have fun – you know what you need to do.” They also told Tom to spend more time with his sister, where there was “hidden suffering”.
The Cords That Bind Us
In the session before last, Tom came in saying that he had been experiencing an uncomfortable “angst feeling” during the week.
He knew it was to do with his upcoming trip to India and the winding down of his job, and he felt that it was connected with his mother in some way, but he not figure out any more than that.
The guides came in right away, and said that it was to do with fear, and Tom got the sense from them that the fear was not really coming from him, although it lived inside him. There was a feeling of “lack of abundance” connected with this fear.
The guides had not been very present for Tom during the week, and they told him that they had stayed back so he could learn better how to reach out and find them. They were pleased with how well he had been doing.
I asked Tom where he felt this fear in his body, and he said that he felt it deep in his solar plexus. It was a generalized fear of not having, and it showed as a yellowish dark ball with tubes feeding into it.
Tom saw it as an image of his third chakra, or energy center, and he got the sense that he was taking in other people's fear more than generating his own. Tom felt stuck and frustrated, and he could see now that the cords came from his mother.
“Don't be afraid to disconnect,” the guides told him, “you're not your mother.”
The guides showed Tom images of himself and his mother when he was young, and how their energies connected in the normal development of a healthy and bonded relationship. But they also showed him how that bonding also included her negative energies, her worries, frets and concerns, including many fears about money.
It showed as a deeply dark energy, which manifested in her life as a debt mentality of, “I'm broke anyway, so to Hell with it, I may as well spend.”
The guides showed Tom that under this was a powerful feeling of unworthiness. For instance, even though she went to school and got a Masters degree in education, she remained a teacher's assistant all her life.
The guides went on to show that her feelings of unworthiness around love had been there long before she met Tom's father. Her own father had always been distant to her, so she was not practiced in the arts of communication, especially with men.
Tom could still help heal her, the guides said, but first he would have to let her go. Love, career and money had all been areas of scarcity for her, and Tom had taken this on for himself, even though he had a good career and had enough money. Underlying it all was a belief that real security was impossible.
Tom saw this inherited energy as cords, or suckers, coming out from his solar plexus. They were the mechanism by which the self-belief was being sucked out of him.
One guide took a hold of all the cords and waited till Tom was ready.
“Cutting the cords is an act of connecting with her,” the guide said. “That energy is not her. When you cut them they will want to keep coming back. But the most powerful force you deal with is pure love.”
The guide then cut through the cords, and they responded like vicious, writhing, screaming snakes. They had mouths on them that tried to reattach to Tom's body.
The guide tried to hold them back, but they would not relent, so another guide used its power to put the cords in a state of sleep. Then at last there was calm.
“Your relation to the scarcity was ignorance,” said the guides, “understand you are pure abundance.”
One guide started working on Tom's solar plexus, helping to heal it, while another picked up the tubes and shot light through them.
“As soon as you recognize a thought of scarcity,” they said, “change the truth. Your thoughts and attitude are the only things separating you from a person with billions of dollars, or a great love. You are a being of pure thought.”
They went on to tell him that if he believed that the tubes could reattach to him, then that would become true.
Tom told me that he was “pretty confident” that he could hold the tubes off, indicating that there was a part of him that not so confident about this.
I asked Tom to find this “less confident” part.
Tom saw him as a little person, with a playful side to him. He was sitting behind Tom's third chakra, in his solar plexus, and the little guy's watchword was, “I doubt it – after all, anything's possible!”
The guides asked Tom if he was ready to leave the little man behind. “He's not part of you, he's just a thought,” they said, perhaps a little enigmatically.
Tom was immediately ready to let go of this little part – or perhaps we should call him a thought pattern.
What Tom called “butterfly fairies” (butterfly-size fairy creatures you might see in a picture book) came, and pulled the little man out from behind the chakra, and brought him to the usual “unburdening cliff” in a glass bowl.
“Heal him in your mind by changing your thoughts,” said the guides.
Tom sent light into the little guy while the sun hit him with its powerful rays.
Very soon the little guy transformed into a full-size person, and that's what was needed to make this “less confident” part grow out of its habitual pessimism.
“It's fate,” the guides remarked. “Drink water, be around water. This is a big energy training. Water will help recharge you.”
I asked Tom if he could explain why this was so, and the guides told him that the water would help the chakra heal, and get everything moving.
“Meditate, meditate, meditate,” they added. “Connect to us more.”
They went on to say that Tom should go and see Anna Miranda, the psychic healer who originally helped Tom find the guides in the first place, and get more healing from her.
Tom's first thought was, “I don't know if I can afford that,” and the guides laughed.
“You can be wise about your money. Money is not the root of all evil. Evil intentions are the root of all evil. Now what you must do is meditate and come find us.”
At this point we were running near the end of the session, so I asked Tom to check inside and see if there were any more of these cords that he could work on today.
The guides responded by saying that yes, there were more cords in him, but they were not to be worked on now.
They suggested that he burn a white candle and say a special prayer that Anna had given him. “There will be time to strip away who you think you are.”
Then the guides showed Tom pure white light, and an image of Tom's grandfather came in front of him, and shot white light into his body. The grandfather morphed back and forth between an image of himself and of a being of pure white light.
“I will never leave you,” his grandfather said. “I will be with you in India. Follow your heart and keep up your positive outlook; it's a great strength of yours. You will attract the right people and circumstances with that.”
Then Tom opened his eyes, and we were done for the day.
The Last Session
Last sessions in therapy are usually spent in summarizing the work that's been done, reviewing the person's progress, and if you're not careful, they devolve into mutual congratulation.
Of course, not so with Tom. As so often, he came in knowing what he wanted to work on.
“I've done all this work on forgiving my mom and forgiving my dad,” he said, “but I think there's a place inside where I haven't forgiven myself.”
And so we had a theme.
The place where Tom struggled with self-forgiveness was in the pit of his stomach. It was a butterflies feeling, and the emotional tone was one of self-blame.
Tom could get no image for this part, but it quickly showed him times in the past where it felt he was to blame.
The first one was a biggie: the fact that his father left the home when Tom was born. Obviously not a “rational” belief, this was, however, the kind of thing a young child might begin to believe about him or herself when a divorce goes sour.
The part went on to show several other things: the car accident when he was twelve; a time in camp when he wet his pants; a time when he and some friends were playing with matches and set some woods on fire; the fact that some summers he had to live with his grandparents while his mother was detoxing from alcohol; and more than one time when as an adult he stayed in a relationship when all his instincts told him to leave. A lot of this was ground we had worked on before, but for the Non-Forgiveness part, it was all new stuff.
That place in the pit of the stomach place was the same third chakra we had worked on the previous week.
As Tom looked inside himself, he saw a black spot in there, and that spot was the place of non-forgiveness. This black spot part had trouble taking in the wider perspective that Tom had available to him because it feared that if it let go, it would cease to exist – it was that identified with self-blame.
I asked Tom to go back to a time before all the self-blame had been accumulated, so that the part could see that its essence really had nothing to do with this stuff.
Tom saw an image of himself as “a bright light of forgiveness” at around age three.
The guides came in at this point, but only to say, “You do most of the work now. The yellow is the chakra and the black has been covering it.”
In his mind's eye Tom then went to the usual cliff-face. He took the yellow ball of his own chakra out of his body there, and held it up to the sun. The sun heated it until it was red, and then Tom threw it into the water below, and dived in after it.
When he came up, the chakra was back inside him, and the black spot had been washed away.
“No regrets, no remorse, ever,” said the guides. “Always forgiveness. Watch your mind when it goes to remorse – remember the light of forgiveness.”
I asked Tom what qualities should replace the black spot, and he brought in the confidence to forgive, even what seems unforgiveable.
We checked back into the laundry list of bad memories we had started the session with, and though Tom remembered them as clearly as ever, they had all lost their toxic charge.
The Non-Forgiveness part, he could feel, had been very inward-looking in its preoccupation with self-blaming. Now Tom could feel the place it once occupied was facing outwards to the world.
The guides came in then, though less powerfully than before, and told Tom there would be further work for him in integrating what he had done today into his life.
“Forgiveness, growth and writing” they told him would now be his main themes. They explained again that they were retreating from Tom so that he could do the work of going inside and finding them himself, and that “the work today was an example of that.”
Tom added that even this communication from the guides felt distant, and that they were “like a shell of themselves.”
I asked Tom if he was okay with this, and he said he was – “I know I need to find my way back to them.”
The guides replied, “You will.”
And with those words our six month journey of healing and redemption came to an end. A few days later Tom was in a plane and on his way to India.
A lot of emotional pain exists in this world, and one thing it does – besides hurt – is press us towards our growth and learning. It's important that we get to heal that pain sometimes, so we can know that the growth and learning really do happen.
What the guides brought to Tom's work was not “speedy relief of mental health symptoms” so much as a way of seeing where our regular day-to-day life fits in to the larger picture. It is part of something more significant, more fun, more interesting, more beautiful and more exciting than we normally get to live, and all this good stuff lies in the imaginative realm where our torn hearts can finally get healed.
So thank you guides, for helping Tom and me find the lost realm and getting to inhabit it for a while.
Tom went on to India, where he started out in the world's only surfing ashram(!), and then went on up to the Himalayas.
Last I heard from him he was making a pot of tea in a house overlooking the mountains, saying how beautiful the place was, and inviting anyone who wanted to come on up and visit.
I believe, Tom, that the prep work you did in New York will be paying off as your journey takes you to one of the holiest places in the world. I want to wish you good luck, but I'm not sure if I should believe in luck anymore, not since the guides have told us that everything is already accomplished. Instead, I think I'll say, “Good destiny.”
Can anyone, with the right prompting, do what Tom did?
Certainly not. Tom's work was special, and I just feel lucky I was there.
What it did, though, was encourage me to ask other people I work with in therapy to summon guides.
Some people look at me like I'm nuts; some try, but nothing comes; and for some, guides do come, and will work with them in ways that are similar, not identical, to what happened with Tom. I love the beautiful energy that they bring, and it makes me remember that we are here on this earth to do particular tasks and to learn particular lessons.
I used to call myself a therapist, but now I try to be a spiritual janitor, helping people in “clearing out the debris”, as the guides put it, of their trauma, false beliefs, bad kharma, emotional pain, or whatever else you want to call the junk that accrues around our mental bodies. We do this work to prepare for the journeys to come.
May we all find our guides and helpers, and may we all have good journeys.