Reflections prompted by Richard Wallace’s poem ‘No Guarantee’

By Bernie Bell

Reading Richard Wallace’s poem set me off on a line of thought about………..trying to deal with what life, whether through our parents, or teachers, or ‘partners’, or events, have put into us. These are just some personal musings – hopefully not pontificating, and, hopefully of help, to someone, somewhere.  Hopefully.

Here is a quotation from Jung which someone sent me, which I think is excellent.  And, remember, this is from a psychologist.

“But what if the point of living isn’t to be placid and happy and untouched by the world, but to be deeply, painfully sensitive to it, to see it’s cruelty and savagery for what they are, and accept all this as readily as we accept its beauty?  To feel the force of everything we see around us?  To be touched by it, moved by it, hurt by it, but not to be indifferent to it?”

Notice it’s a matter of seeing the beauty and the savagery, all too often, the savagery appears to overshadow the beauty, in the world, and in people.  People are also capable of astounding acts of kindness, courage, unselfishness.  Not just the ones that are noticed by the world either, also the ones who just quietly try to make life around them better in ‘small’ ways.  They’re all out there, the hurters and the helpers, but, and I say this again and again, only hurt people hurt.  There’s always something behind it, and it’s for us to try to recognize this, try to help them, if we can, and if they will let us, and try to ensure that we don’t take part in hurting others and producing more hurt people, who will hurt more people, and so it goes, round and round, until or unless we make the effort to break the pattern of hurt.

Everyone has hurt in their lives, some more than others, some to a degree which is un-imaginable to others, and we each deal with it as best we can.  Having said that, if the best way a person can deal with it, is to not look at it, and try to live their life mainly ‘on the surface’ of things, then who is to say that’s not the best thing for them to do?  If it’s that persons way of dealing with it.  If that works, good.  But that can be a big IF.

Children learn what they see, and, sometimes, react so much against it, that that isn’t a good thing, either. Balance, that’s the key, if possible.

I often, very often, come across the situation where the root of a person’s problem, either emotional, or physical ( what’s perceived as physical, often has a root in the emotions), can be seen to be in their past. Often parents/family, sometimes school ( or parents/family perpetuated by school), or, later on, other personal relationships, or events in their lives.

What I’m going to say next, isn’t from the viewpoint of someone who has had an un-failingly lovely time, and can therefore sit on my ivory tower, and pontificate – I’ve had the lessons to learn, too – but I don’t carry the hard times around with me, forever!

Yes, our early life, can put things into us, which affect how we are, and which can make life hard for us to cope with, or make us hard, for others to cope with.  When a person gets to a certain age, let’s call it the age of reason, it’s up to them, to see this, in themselves, and, if they choose to, work on it.  Some don’t see it, some see themselves but think how they are is just fine. Some see it, and aren’t prepared to make an effort to work on themselves – as, make no mistake, it is hard work, and can take years. Some, see it, work on it, make changes and changes happen in their lives – sometimes quite quickly.  Sometimes it takes years, and years.  It’s the seeing, and learning, that matters.

I do, firmly believe this.  It’s not enough to say “It’s how I am, my life, has made me this way.”  Yes, the person can be like that, but, why should they throw their dis-comfort and un-ease and unpleasantness, at others, around them? Which is often the case.  Only hurt people, hurt, but that’s no excuse, for doing so.

That’s often the root of it, these people become very self-absorbed and self-centred ( as in, centred on self – centred on their way of being and seeing, and what they are ‘getting from’ life). Self-interested might be a better way of putting it.

I could go on and on about this.  I’ve seen it, so many times.  It can make them very difficult to know, or spend time with.  But  the answer, is in themselves.  It’s with each person, to work with it, and deal with it, themselves. The answer is always, in the person, themselves.  To quote a young singer from Glasgow, who I like a lot, Paulo Nutini….”We’re broken by others, but we mend ourselves.”  It is always the person , who mends themselves.  Free Will.  I’m not a fan of much that’s in the Bible, but, Free Will, is one thing there, which is a very good message.  Ultimately, it’s down to us, each one of us.

If a person sees that their early life, or even later life, has placed certain things in them, and those are things which they don’t think much of, it is with them, to try to work through these things.

Not, necessarily to expunge them, completely.  I don’t see how that can be done, without further damage, as these things are usually deep within their psyche. But, to see how they’re being, to see how this affects those around them, and to try to work with these things, to resolve them as much as they can be resolved, is possible. I’ve seen it happen, many times.

The person, is then, a more balanced person, and so, is better with the world around them, and the knock-on effect, travels like ripples, through the world.

The hurt-ful people, are not happy people, it shows in their way of being, and often, in their faces.  It is possible, for them to find a better, more happy, more productive, way of being.  I mean productive, as in, bringing something positive into the world, rather than something negative.  Negative feeds negative, and positive, feeds positive.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

I am constantly thankful that I had such a positive, loving start in life.  That gave me the basic confidence and surety, to be able to take on living life, fully.  It was later in my life, that I met with things which ‘knocked’ me, but….I dealt with  them, and still try to deal with them, as best I can.  Including the most recent, truly dreadful illness.  I’ve learnt from it, and am still learning, and hope to keep on, learning, as what happened, and how I came through it, becomes clearer and clearer.

It won’t do, to say to myself, that I had this illness, and it ‘did things’ to me, and so, carry that with me, for the rest of my life. That won’t do.  As my friend, Wendy’s, poem says, it’s not so much things happening to us, as …us happening


Amongst the clang and clamour

of hectic days and

relentless demand  for vigour,

expectations which wait

to be fulfilled,

inspired by my own enthusiasm,

has arisen disparity,

unexpected, unwelcome,

harmony and rhythm in discord.


I’m surprised at the power

of my body’s expression,

exhaustion, discomfort and pain.

What went wrong?

Did I not show reverence, respect

behave and take proper care?

I search for the moment

when balance was lost.

This should not be happening to me.


Perturbed by doubt,

my mind full of questions,

I grasp at the voices for answers –

Mom?  God?  Trees?  Knowledge?

Disjointed, disconnected,


in turmoil, I descend

through deep calm breath,

let go of fear and rigid thought.


Floating, falling,

seeking, comprehending,

allowing patient resolve,

until inner dance

and outward experience

shift and synchronize.

Then I know that this

is not happening to me,

it is just me, happening.

Wendy Alford       August 2013

Wendy wrote that, when she became ill, and is still struggling with her illness.  Wise words from a hard place.

I’ve gone on and on and on…………….in a nut-shell, experience has shown me, that … my view……yes, life, family, whatever ……places things into our natures or our way of being.  When we reach an age, and an age at which we should be using our faculties fully, it’s for us to see the damage which has been done and which we therefore often then do, to others, and take action to work on these aspects of ourselves.  You could call it damage limitation. I don’t believe it can be wiped away, but it can be seen, worked with, and produce a more comfortable person – more comfortable with themselves, and with others and the world around them.

I would go so far as to say that I know this to be so….I’ve seen it so many times, and come across so many folk, who have found greater ease in their lives and way of being.  Too many, far too many examples to state or even begin to state, but it’s all taught me that we can be different, if we choose to be.

In myself, it’s my temper. I have a terrible temper (red hair! – maybe…..).  I’ve seen this, and worked with, and work with it, as it wasn’t right, to throw that at people, just because of how I was feeling. It frightened people!  Not a right thing to do, or way to be, so, I worked with it, and am still doing so.

The temper wasn’t put into me, by my life, I think it’s just part of my general make-up, but, we all have these things, whether put into us, or in us, and it’s up to us, to not let these things, make other people’s lives, or the world around us, suffer for it.

I can see these things, in people.  I feel that it’s a shame, that they have been messed up in this way, but I do, strongly, believe, that it’s with them, to change it, and not throw it at others.

How people choose to behave, is up to them.  Whether I choose to spend time with those people – is up to me!

It often goes down the generations.  I wrote a rhyme, about the husband and son of someone I used to know.  Firstly I’ll explain that, in this context, by ‘spoilt’, I mean, literally, as in, taking a good thing ( no new baby, is a bad thing), and ‘spoiling’ it. The father, was an only son, his sisters, as far as his mother was concerned, hardly counted. It was the boy, that counted.  This produced much ‘trouble’ in the sisters, but that’s another story. He then married, knowing he’d married someone who would revere him, as his mother had done, and let him carry on with his tyranny. They then had two girls, and a boy.  And…..the boy was treated the same as his father had been.  I’ll mention here, that I felt sorry for the father in this tale.  He was a deeply un-happy, un-settled man.  Didn’t know who he was, where he was, what he wanted.  But, if he didn’t get this own way…..!!!!!!

I was sorry for him, though, as, well, that’s no way to live, is it?  He’d married a woman who didn’t stand up to him. He might have been happier, if he’d married someone who did stand up to him, and got him to see a different way of being.  Anyway that hadn’t happened, so….no use crying over spilt milk.  The trouble was, I could see, clearly, that the son was heading for the same scenario.  Seriously, it was all there.  He went away to Uni., and let the girls he knew, do everything for him.  The girls, played their part, of course – they didn’t have to do everything for him!  Anyway……it’s very likely that he will follow the same path as his father.  Unless, by some miracle, he meets and falls in love with someone, who will love him, for the good things in him, and be prepared to take on the job of helping him to be less of a self-absorbed little tyrant!

Here’s what I wrote, after observing these people – it’s based on the ‘big fleas have little fleas’, rhyme.

“A ‘spoilt’ child, will ‘spoil’ their child

If no-one tries to right ’em.

And that child, ‘spoils’, another child

And so, ad infinitum.”

I’ve known people who have had the most appalling things, happen to them, and they make what they can, of their lives. Others have had a few hiccups, and they see that as being the end of the world.  We have different limits, and levels of what we can take.  It’s at least trying to clear it, and work on it, that matters.  Well, that’s how I see it, anyway!

We’re all children.  We’re all troubled.  A child, in age, finds it harder to see it, and do something about it.  The child, is still there, when we’re ‘grown-ups’, but, we should then, have the maturity, to see it, and work with it.  To grow, to be what we can be.  To grow into ourselves.

It’s a lot easier, to blame someone else for what they ‘did’ to you, then you don’t have to take it on yourself, take responsibility, for yourself, and deal with it, yourself.  But………….a person has to want to go there – they have to seek their healing.  It is a lot easier to blame others, in all kinds of situations.

It can even be the case, that the, let’s say perpetrator, isn’t actually doing, what they do  to the person they are hurting – they are, doing what they are doing, and being what they are being.  It isn’t personal, it’s how they are.  The point is, to  try to see this, and to see its effects, and working with it and through it, let it go.

Families have a lot to answer for, religion has a lot to answer for.  A lot of things, have a lot to answer for.  It’s up to us, to at least try to over-come our fears and limitations, rather than ‘pass the buck’.  That’s all too easy.

In the long run, it isn’t easy, though, because it means that the person spends their life in fear, regret, resentment, anger, whatever it is they’re holding onto.  Trying to clear what’s blocking them, frees them, to become what they can be.  That isn’t empty words, I’ve seen it happen, and am seeing it happen, all the time.

Here’s a piece which was written by someone I know.  She wrote this, and I read it when I  was going through a bad time, and it pulled me up and helped me.  This is it, having worked through it herself, to some extent, she can now write things which help others……..

Bless Our Indomitable Souls

If we come to earth consciously from heavenly realms then we’re either fundamentally insane, or, we’ve inescapably adventurous souls, because we all dare enter a place full of danger and unknown outcomes.

My soul’s latest adventure started when thrown into incognizance from the warm, nurturing nest of home, landing defiantly on this harsh planet – fearful, bewildered and desperately homesick. My offenders relayed to me with compassion that this was necessary for the interests of my soul’s purpose; that they couldn’t intervene, only watch empathetically the intense unhappiness I experienced in the first episodes of life.

How can the soul enjoy adventuring in a soulless, dehumanising environment such as I found myself in, where to breathe is a crime, to exist a punishable offence?…. It cannot; instead, from necessity, compulsory searching in the dark night of the soul befalls. Innate spirit activates deep critical examination of the inner and outer world as it appears in all its madness, attempting to crystallise an escape route for survival.

Without normalcy to compare with and nothing perceivable to lose, the soul is game for anything; exploring boldly, indiscriminately, any experience that might shed light on personal peace and meaning. Hence, from that black hole evolved a cornucopia of extreme, incongruous, adventures, encompassing sexuality, drugs, crime, and being almost murdered. A crash course in abundant unpleasantness!

…. A clever strategy indeed, because only complete saturation of the unrewarding enabled my inquisitive, indomitable soul to piece together what I like and deserve, and to recognise my gifts, true qualities, and potential.

Sally Asher

pioneer plaque

Vectors by Oona Räisänen (Mysid); designed by Carl Sagan & Frank Drake; artwork by Linda Salzman Sagan , via Wikimedia Commons

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