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The Island

There is a metaphor we use in our groups, called the island. The island is basically a metaphor for disconnection. It is the physical and emotional act of “not being present”, We can put ourselves “on the island” by being in our head, or getting drunk or buzzed, by isolating or by thinking that we have nothing in common with those around us. We can put ourselves “on the island” by thinking that others don’t like us or love us. We can put ourselves on the island by judging ourselves for our clothes, our weight, our hair, our shoes, the food we brought. Being “on the island” is a form of self conciousness that prevents us from reaching out to others.

We put ourselves on the island often times as a learned behavior. Through criticism or projection, we have learned to focus on ourselves looking moment to moment to catch ourselves in the act of a mistake. We have learned to train our eyes for the thing that is “wrong” with us or with someone else. This act causes a disconnect with the present moment. It causes us to leave our own brain and begin skimming the brains of those around us…wondering if they are seeing our “wrongness” before we do. We must hurry to find it, before someone else points it out. In the end this is a coal fire of shame burning in the soul. The basic belief that on some level “there is something wrong with me”, and I must maintain an appearance that all is well. This is a diconnect from authenticity from being connected and in the present. When we go to our heads with those thoughts about the outfit we have on, or the dish we brought wondering if it meets some magical standard, we are living in our heads, in a fairy land imagined, in a land of judgments and projections, an inaccurate map instead of the moment, the terrain of NOW!

This very map, that we use in our heads, the one that causes us to disconnect from the moment in self conciousness, is also the very same map that causes us to isolate or disconect by putting someone else on the island. “Oh that one, I don’t like her, I just try to avoid her”. We are projecting that map, looking through our template at all times. We are seeing what we think of ourselves on the great silk screen of life. Just like the old movie projectors that occasionally had a peice of lint on the projector lens, we through our lens, full of lint or judgments we have learned throughout our lives.

Most of the time, the folks who surround us at the holidays are not dangerous criminals out to harm us. They do not by fact, need to isolated on an island for the safety of all. Even the worst drunk, will likely do no more than yell, or cuss, or stumble. If safety is an issue, we must set boundaries and sometimes we need to put them on the island to be safe. (avoid them) But more times than not the damage comes not from the actual “slight” but from our own reactions. This is how we put others on the island. We think. We use those same judgments that haunt us to label others.

Well, maybe two years ago that relative said something hurtful to me and now every time I see them I remember what they said, OR every time I see them they say something else hurtful (sometimes because we are expecting it, waiting for it, making it match our map). We hold the resentment as if it is happening right now and we hold the resentment as if it somehow helps us or keeps us safe. We forget that time has gone by that we have all changed, each moment of every day.

As long as our map of judgments is unrevised in the now (oh, she says stuff like that, but she’s drunk) or (he’s insulted me again, but I know who I am and I don’t have to let it hurt my feelings) , we will project the same old circumstance on that relative and on all those around us. If someone calls us a carp or a fish and we know for certain that we are not, we are generally “unharmed” by the comment. In fact, we know we are not a fish and we wonder instead if there is something wrong with the observer that they would think we are a fish. But if we believe, or if what they say about us, matches that template of judgments, our map of past reality, we will be insulted. We will not be able to distinguish the the thought of the observer is about them. It is not about us…but we believe it is about us, because it matches our map.

We will reinforce and recreate our templates over and over again.This basically means we will responding to the past and what we learned about it, instead of the RIGHT NOW. Maybe we were in a bad place the last time we had our feelings hurt, maybe we didn’t know with more certainty who we really are, maybe we thought that others could really hurt us with words, or maybe we mistakenly thought that the words and actions of others are about us, not them. Either way, if there is a resentment, a hurt, a slight, it can usually be found in our hearts, in some judgment we are making about how things should be or shouldn’t be. Those kinds of judgments rarely serve us to find true inner peace in the now, and really, those judgments are about our very own template, more so than the behavior of that relative or loved one.

How we live the NOW fully present, changes the next moment.

May you find this moment, the moment between your map of the world and what is, may you find true peace and love in that layer of reality today!! May you manage to keep yourself and others off the island today!



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I am a licensed mental health counselor specializing in the treatment of trauma. My twenty years of experience in treating survivors of domestic violence, childhood abuse, sexual assault and war have increased my desire to participate in studying the invariant relationships related to violence. My current pet theory has to do with denial and truth. The invalidation of those who suffer from trauma, has created symptoms that plague our society. The most serious symptom being the perpetuation of violence in our denial of it's consequences.

The truth shall set you free. But it takes skills (emotional intelligence) to handle the truth...because most of society...
"can't handle the truth."