One of the central tenets within the HAI curriculum is the statement: "You are at choice." When asking people to remove their clothes, they are reminded that "they are at choice." This is actually the case more than most environments I have experienced. I have tested this freedom on so many cases that literally 40% of the value I have co-created for myself has been outside of standard workshop format: "I know you want us to do XXX, but I feel safer and would learn more if I did YYY. Can you help with that." This is in my view one of the strongest aspects of the micro-culture created in HAI workshops.
It also hides an aspect of imprisonment that we don't like to look at in "the land of the free."
Animals that are traumatized when they approach the entrance to a cage repeatedly stop testing the cage boundary. After a time the scientist, or sociopath, depending on your perspective, who has shocked the animal every time they approached the doorway of the cage, can open the door and the animal will not escape. They will stay in the cage indefinitely.
In a country rife with childhood trauma and deception many children, including myself, experienced a systematic cycle of shame, violence, cruelty and uncontrollable rage on the part of our provider/protector in the form of mother and father. The biggest taboo was to name cruelty, hate, rage and hypocrisy for what it was, or direct the attention of the power-figure towards themselves. The greatest trauma, hate and rage was reserved for speaking the truth.
This deception extended outside the family: Teachers, parents of friends, strangers and to my perspective as a child every single adult behaved threateningly if I suggested in any way that their might be something wrong with my parents sociopathic cruelty towards me and my siblings. I was sternly, patronizingly told "You are lucky you are not in China where people are starving." Or people looked scared of me and avoided me. Or I was lectured angrily in a way that made no sense: "Why are you talking to me! Go and do XXX." Since this had nothing to do with anything I said or hinted at, and these reprimands were reserved exclusively for the vulnerability of expressing any feeling, the message was loud, clear and devastating:
"Your feelings do not matter. Your safety does not matter. The truth does not matter. And we will attack you, distract you, punish you and kill you if necessary if you persist in examining or expressing any of these taboo things." And one more thing: "Don't you dare pretend that anything is wrong with this: You are a lucky, happy child and don't you forget it."
When this pattern begins before language. When it continues to the death of the parent (My father just died of cancer and in response to my 45 minute audio recording listing the abuses that have left three of his five children dealing with waves of suicidal states his last reply was: "I have loved you unconditionally since your birth," a statement befitting my therapist Peter Sandhill that completely denies, deflects and avoids all apology for any of the extreme terror and shame both have engendered and blamed me for.) it makes it very hard to sort out truth from fiction. The penalty for truth is so severe (at home and at HAI it nearly cost me my life and severely shook my foundation of survival, security and belonging - the three basic human needs) and the lie is so gently offered from all sides that it is a traumatic experience to face the truth in the depths of loneliness - a loneliness that is all the more complete because everyone else prefers the lie and wants to live in an illusion where the betrayals that hurt me the most do not exist, and therefore should not be felt or need any form of addressing.
I have watched countless faces in the 30 workshops I attended in which normally socially taboo invitations are made: "Please remove all of your clothing." etc. and the words are perfect: "Don't pay attention to what anyone else is doing. Do what's right for you." And yet people do look, and some (my best guess is 20%) fearfully cross their boundaries and ignore their feelings to follow the authority figure's request and the majority, which I think, like me, they have learned is safer than to do what they feel and speak their truth in action. The same women do what I ask them to do, almost automatically, as in the case of my request to have intercourse with a woman only to find that she did not seem to be in her body and I felt lonely when I was inside her. I checked in with her and she had said "yes" not because she wanted to have sex, but because she wanted to please me. I withdrew my penis immediately and we continued talking, without the sex that I had hoped would bring us closer.
Whether the percentage of 10%, 20% or 60% a surprisingly high number of people in Western Culture override their body and emotions to follow a mental program that has been reinforced by what has been at times a traumatizing authority or bullying majority. These people are violating themselves unconsciously in deeply vulnerable areas in HAI contexts. Statistics on trauma and abuse show that sexual trauma and sexual abuse is among the most damaging and harmful forms of abuse their is. And when one is told "with love" that doing what we are told and don't want to do "is love," at a young age, it takes careful work to undo those repressed feelings before someone could enter a HAI environment and actually know what their "yes" and "no" is and honor it when they know, when that diverges from either the authority, the majority, or someone's wishes they feel is strongly connected to their needs to survive, feel secure and belong.
This topic gets more complicated and darker when I consider the following: After my first ten lover experiences within the community I watched the women who felt deeply attached to me after sex start taking their cues from me. I would ask them a question to try and determine our compatibility for ongoing relationship and they would say "Whatever you like..." Or "I haven't thought about it - you tell me." I would tell them what I needed and they would say, from a hazy area of their brain that did not seem to be processing logistics "Yeah... me too!"
This may be fine for the typical relationship pattern of falling in love with your parent/abuser and then re-enacting the abuse and having a power-struggle and trying to change the other etc. But it has nothing to do with healthy, conscious relationship. What's more, I found it was absolutely hopeless to try and get to the truth of what someone did and did not want or what was healthy for them after they were interested in being in relationship with me, which typically came in strong after someone with a touch-love-language had been sexual. This was truly heart-breaking and lonely for me. I can take care of myself in this terrain in part because I have journaled deeply and meditated for thousands of hours and lived in isolation most of my life, where there was no incentive to lie for political purposes. After thousands of pages of expressing my needs and desires and being someone who does not lie to myself or others I would not tolerate myself telling someone something completely different from what I've told myself for decades.
What I was worried about was a relationship in which my needs were met and theirs were not, or in which my needs were met coercively while the sex drug was high and then I was abandoned when the drug wore off in my partner and she decided to tell the truth again and reject the very parts of me that she had said were so wonderful when she needed me... This is the norm and it's very lonely.
So I decided that the only work-around I could find was to have a 4-10 hour conversation that was very direct, detailed and practical about core areas of compatibility that included money, boundaries, time, expecations, sex, priorities and the culture of the relationship. There was just one problem. Having found that as soon as a woman was really interested in me she started fuzzing her answers or blatantly lying, I deliberately put on a non-seductive and much more abstract persona: Like a business interview: "I'm interested in exploring a conscious relationship with you. Are you willing to have a 4-10 hour conversation about our needs and compatibilities." This absolutely succeeded in not turning women on, which seemed key in being kind to them since a relationship not based on what they really needed from a clear-thinking perspective was not kind to anyone.
What I was appealing to was rationality: Statistically speaking, most people spend about six months to get to this point of honest clarity and it is often a very costly six months that does not end well for one or both people. I saw women complaining constantly about men who were not the way they had fantasized them to be and that men were not ending things the way they wanted etc. It seemed as if this deep dissatisfaction with what did happen when two people avoided these deeply personal and practical topics before having sex might result in the women who were so unhappy with the results of the normal approach being excited to know all the things they did not know about them men they complained about on a first or second date that had the sole purpose of kindly understanding each other in key areas so we would know if it was kind to have sex/attach.
But no: I still had the same amount of people interested if I wanted to have unconscious sex with them and see what happened. Only for that I had to be seductive and as soon as they wanted sex they were not amused to have to talk for ten hours. But 95% of the women I approached rejected this approach as being "unnatural," which just meant that they had never done this before. Rationally this should have been an obvious alert to probable value: "You complain most of the time with what happens when you do things the way you always do things. Stands to reason you need to do things differently if you want different results. This is a different way. I've never tried it before. I will definitely have to grow to give it a try. Do I want to grow or not?"
They did not. "That's too formal. That's weird. It does not feel romantic." All the things I was striving for to access the honest, self-aware part of their brain were all the reasons they did not want to talk to me. Since I find it profoundly traumatizing to be blamed for breaking people's heart or being hurtful when they attach to me, project whatever they want into a void of ignorance they willfully maintain, and then get disappointed by who I am," I did not want to do it their way.
This left me isolated. Yet the rare person who had the conversation - often a fifty year old woman who was secure in her self-awareness and had failed enough with unconscious sex to be excited by a change - was indeed able to tell me exactly what I needed to know in order for me to tell her where I was and was not ideal for her, based on my observations and the feedback from past lovers. I was absolutely delighted to conclude "We are not a match for each other in this and this key area," just as I was just as delighted to find that "Wow, even though we are not perfect for each other, I'm willing to handle the snoring and smoking if you can handle the depth of communication I prefer." It was clean.
The point to this is that 90% or more of the women, who are supposedly more interested in communicating about feelings and needs than men, walked away from me for the sole reason that they did not want to have that communication before they were really into me, and I did not want to seduce them to the point where they were into me so much they were just talking about these things to please me and all they wanted was the feeling of falling in love as long as they could maintain their projections.
Aside from saying that it hurt me deeply to find myself in a situation where if I did it there way I ended up being blamed for not being their projections, and they rejected me if I asked to be seen and to see from the get go, I conclude that a good percentage of people are so dissociated from what they really want, need and feel that much of their weekend experience is a performance. I find this hypothesis corroborated by numerous one-on-one conversations with people during the workshops:
People often feel safe to talk to me because I have outed myself as "being weird" with my burning share. They don't feel that they lose any status socially if I see their weirdness because in their eyes I may already be lower status then they are because they carefully hide the areas of social unacceptability that I lead with. At any rate people often tell me things at the workshops that they are not telling their husbands, not telling the group, not telling their lover etc. And I always tell them the same thing:
"You know, you can make that work for you. If you are overwhelmed I one time asked a team-member to go in the hot tub warm pool with me for three hours and listen to me. I asked the cook for more food if you are not getting the diet you want. You can make this work for you. A HAI workshop is one of the few places you will not be punished for talking about this."
I say this. And then nine times out of ten (I can't think of a single time someone believed me or acted on this but their may have been one I'm forgetting) I see these people going back to the group, fitting in and putting on a face that successfully conceals everything they just told me.
I feel angry about this. Why is this going on? What's the point of pretending to be "authentic" if you are going to lie. You have had years of practice lying - why pay money to practice it some more? It's been very frustrating.
I see HAI as complicit in this deception and ignorance in so many ways. One thing I realized when I watched the bubble of suppressed energy that builds up in people who are lying about what they like is that it would probably burst into the truth at about day four or people would have to leave. In other words, anyone can put on an act for a day or so. But I did not think any of the people I talked to could keep the act up for a week. So it seemed like for a good percentage of workshop attendees the workshops would be destructive or useless unless they were a week long. So that's exactly what I proposed multiple times to facilitators: "Let's have a 7 day workshop." Like everything I have suggested, there was zero response, which is why this pattern will continue.
Questions: Are the facilitators aware of the level of deception about preference, boundary and free "choice" in the workshops by many of their participants? What is their opinion about this percentage and why it happens? What is HAI doing so as not to be complicit in this form of self-negation and betrayal when that betrayal enters more dangerous terrain when involving sex?
Concern: Trauma research suggests that 60% of all Americans or more are dealing with repressed trauma, and that when trauma is in play, particularly early childhood trauma that is glossed over as "normal" violence, betrayal, abandonment and shame, that the survival coping strategy to deal with this trauma overrides the rational brain, whether the person is aware of it or not. That means that in a relationship there is a 120% probability that one or more people in the relationship is dealing with both unresolved trauma and an irrational coping strategy that could hurt everyone involved. How does Jason Weston justify saying that "Trauma is not a HAI focus," and how do the facilitators maintain a position that they are committed to their participants and the whole world winning without a single mention of trauma - or even a recommendation that people read a book on it? From my perspective HAI is abusing it's participants with willful ignorance and were our laws written to protect human beings, criminal negligence by glossing over the many dangers involved with engaging in physical sex before each person has some basic literacy about the function of trauma in the brain and how so much of the 30% of all domestic relationships in the U.S. which involve violence stem from that ignorance. The fact that we are dealing with a population that has learned that it is safer to suppress the truth than to speak it does not make it OK to join with them in the suppression of their deep feelings just because doing so leads to more physical sex. People need to be taught by an authority figure that the truth is tolerated. That is unfortunately hard to teach as long as HAI maintains it's policy of disconnecting the e-mail accounts of anyone with knowledge of criminal negligence on the part of a facilitator.