The Feeling Function as Foundation of the Healthy Person

Somewhere in one’s person, relatively distinct from the ego and supraordinate to it, is a self that knows what is good for itself.

Fundamentally the organism that each of us is – the totality of what we call psyche and body – knows what is good for itself. We can see this most vividly in infants who have not yet been significantly conditioned by their environment. They suckle, they sleep, they cry, they smile, not on any imposed schedule, but, as we might say, “naturally,” in response to something innate. In Jungian terms, this “innate something” that regulates the organism – the physiological processes as well as the stages of physical, emotional, and psychological growth and development – functions as an “authority” with an agenda and a goal. This is part of what we mean by the term Self: an inner authority “distinct from the ego and supraordinate to it.” The inner authority with its agenda and its goal “knows what is good for itself,” which means that the Self in you and the Self in me knows what is good for you or for me as whole persons. This “knowing” is evidence of the feeling function in operation, independently of the conscious personality.

“Feeling” is a messy word in English: we use the same word to refer to several different experiences. “I feel hungry.” “I feel happy.” “I feel we should do xyz.” “What do you feel like doing?” Here we have four different usages of the same word: a physical condition (hungry), an emotional state (happy), a thought or belief (we should do xyz), and a desire or preference (feel like doing). 

The first two usages – feel hungry, feel happy – express a perception of something going on in oneself. We could more accurately say “happiness is happening” and “my consciousness perceives happiness,” or “hunger is happening” and my consciousness perceives it. The third usage – “What do you feel like doing?” – may really be asking: “What does the Self in you want you to do?” “What does that part of you, not your conditioned ego, want you to do that is good for itself [and therefore good for you, too]?” The fourth possibility – feel we should do – expresses some sense of duty or obligation and the possibility of choice. That may be the Self nudging consciousness, but it could just as well be a “learned should,” an artifact of something taken in from our environment that may have very little to do with the Self, with our innate capacity that “knows what is good for itself.” 

Our conditioned conscious personalities – your ego – and my conditioned conscious personality – my ego – may have other ideas of what’s good for you or for me. That’s where our conditioned consciousness and the essence that we call Self come into conflict. The conflict between the innate feeling function (one of the voices of the Self) and what our environment tells us is right and good for us collide shortly after birth. This conflict arises because we have to adapt to the environment in order to survive. In fact, we have to adapt to our environment throughout life, but we also have to find a way to live as much of our innate uniqueness as possible (i.e., the potential contained in the Self). Typically in the first half of life – up until 35 or 40 – establishing ourselves in the world takes most of our energy and attention. But after the decade of our 40s it becomes progressively more important and even urgent to develop a better balance between adaptation to the world and adaptation to what in us “wants” us to pay attention to it. 

Adaptation to our environment necessitates compromises, but they become problematic when the compromises block expression of our innate potential, i.e., the actualization of the Self. Blocked potentials don’t disappear; they remain as unlived life, showing up in daydreams, night dreams, fantasies and fascinations, or emotional and/or physical symptoms, and various forms of “acting out.” As we get older, the more the Self does not inform our waking life, the more our level of vitality suffers. We can recognize one aspect of our compromises in the sense – sometimes vague, sometimes clear and distinct – that what we are doing doesn’t suit us, “goes against the grain,” takes our energy but doesn’t give us anything in return. One of the major tasks in therapy with people after age 40 consists in developing a conscious relationship to the feeling function so that they can chose to evaluate everything in terms of suitable or unsuitable. “Am I operating out of habit, because it ‘feels’ comfortable?” “Is an activated complex driving me?” “Have I been infected by an emotion that could carry me off somewhere that really isn’t good for me?” “Am I crossing a developmental threshold, hence the ‘feeling’ of unfamiliarity?” “Is the Self is moving me on in life?”  

Developing a conscious relationship to the feeling function (one of the voices of the Self) means we have to scrutinize everything that moves us, pulls or pushes us toward one choice or another. We have to ask whether conditioning taught us to prefer something, or whether what we sense as a preference is the Self nudging us to actualize more of our innate potential. In principle, this is simple. In practice this demands careful reflection on what we value and why we value it. 

As I was writing this piece a former client in her mid-fifties whom I hadn’t seen for several months scheduled a “tune up” session. She had had “Great Success,” she said. “I have managed to disappoint several people.” She went on to relate several instances when she, an independent contractor, had gotten several job offers, all of which she had turned down. This had not been easy. Typically in the past she would have devised some compromise work-around to accommodate the other person. “I can make it work for a few months,” she rationalized as she thought about how to accept the offer. “Then I heard myself.” She had begun to be able to notice and honor the voice of the Self.

Somewhere in one’s person, relatively distinct from the ego and supraordinate to it, is a self that knows what is good for itself.

  1. Willeford, Wm. (1987). Feeling, Imagination, and the Self. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, p. 150.

July 2019 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and Director of the Analyst Training Program. He has been in practice since the mid-1980s.  To schedule an appointment, call the Ommani Center, 262-695-5311. Learn more at

Beyond My Comfort Level II

In an earlier issue of the Ommani Jewel (March, 2019), I wrote about going beyond my comfort level. In that essay I began by focusing on the so-called “outer world:” loss of species that pollinate our food plants, climate change, political activism, and the discomfort I and many experience when we finally chose to speak out in some manner. In the earlier essay I wrote: “We now need all the self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and courage we can muster. Why? Because going beyond one’s comfort zone is what offers us the only opportunity to know what we are made of and to discern if what we do is good enough.” This month I will deepen the “inward” look.  Hence the title: Beyond My Comfort Level II.

The word “shadow” reminds us that we are not pure light. So easy to say, but not so easy to deal with, shadow draws our attention to our attitudes, behaviors, and habits that embarrass and humiliate us when they slip past our well-groomed self-presentation (our “persona”) and our sense of ourselves, or when they take over and possess us. Most basically, shadow is “not I.” Shadow, used in this sense, comes from the work of C.G. Jung.

Shadow encompasses everything of which I am not aware, but also everything that I experience as Not-I. Case in point: When I was in postgraduate training at the Jung Institute in Chicago there was a fellow student whom I could barely tolerate. Every time he spoke I could feel rage boiling up inside me. I felt that his way of being canceled me out, made my way of being superfluous, negated me. How could the world be big enough for both of us, let alone the postgraduate program we were both enrolled in?

Over the decades I have mellowed somewhat. He has not become my favorite colleague, but I don’t get enraged when I hear him speak. Two qualities make him a shadow figure for me: first, there is expansiveness about him such that he fills the entire space, wherever he happens to be. Second, he appears to have a sense of easy-going self-confidence. Both of these qualities lag behind other human potentials I have developed to a fair degree. He is not evil, but his strengths painfully remind me of my deficits, those less-well adapted human behaviors and attitudes that lie within his comfort zone. And this takes me back to the title of this essay: beyond my comfort zone. I can (somewhat) develop my ability to fill the space I occupy; I can, and have, cultivated more self-confidence, and on a good day my self-confidence is more easy-going.  But I’ll never be as good at it as he is.

How do we know what is shadow for us? As my experience with my colleague shows, our reactions to other people (especially our negative reactions) provide a mirror in which we see what we are not. The people with whom we live can describe our shadow in detail – if we can stand hearing it! (Of course, we can return the favor, too.) At the societal level, “the other,” the out-group, those people who look different from us, or speak differently than we do, or support the other political party frequently carry shadow for us. Currently for many in the U.S. and other countries on this planet, migrants and immigrants serve as the mirror for the dominant culture’s shadow. They challenge us individually to scrutinize our cultural conditioning and recognize other valid ways of being human.

It often happens that we condemn in others what we ourselves unconsciously do. For example, I know a very talkative person whom I have heard complain bitterly about another person who talked, seemingly, incessantly. Black pots and kettles? Another example from my distant past comes to mind. Once in an interview at a professional meeting I was asked whom I didn’t like. I immediately thought of a man who spoke very circumstantially. Later I had to realize that I had difficulty making a simple, declarative statement. That fellow was doing what I did, but I didn’t see the same behavior in myself – until later.

Our dreams often confront us with shadow figures and behaviors. The classic shadow figure is that person who appears to be everything I am not, and whom I cannot stand, or fear. Sometimes this is a known person, but often the figure is unknown. As much as I may protest, and as often as I see the shadow figure as other, that shadow figure nevertheless is my human potentials that I have not developed and integrated into my conscious personality. This is where I have to go beyond the limits of my comfort zone. That is an ethical challenge.

Most of the time, nobody can succeed in forcing us to go beyond the limits of our comfort zone and begin to deal with shadow, the “Not-I.” For that matter, we see exactly the same inability to deal with the societal Not-I on the global scale in ethnic cleansing, racial superiority claims, mass immigration, and so on. It seems to me that we deal with personal or collective shadow only when forced by necessity.

What qualifies as necessity? The most pressing necessity is survival: unless we mend our ways, we will not survive. (Here we are at politics again.) However, necessity may also be less dramatic than brute  survival: We become problems to ourselves. When a person says, “I can’t stand myself, the way I am, and the things I do,” that person has taken the first step toward dealing with a shadow issue. That person has made an ethical/moral choice, and will necessarily go beyond the limits of the personal, and perhaps collective, comfort zone.

We are all called to grow into more mature – which means more ethical and more responsible – human beings who have worked on realizing not only our best gifts, but also our lesser gifts. This includes “gifts” that we struggle with, but do not fully master. Our struggle with the shadow usually begins when we say, “Enough. The changes I need to make can’t be much worse than enduring the present.” This journey leads to self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and a coming-to-terms with the shadow.

May 2019 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and Director of the Analyst Training Program. He has been in practice since the mid-1980s.  To schedule an appointment, call the Ommani Center, 262-695-5311. Learn more at

When Emotions Become Homeless Beasts

During prehistoric times, humans needed physical strength and a cohesive community, while common sense and quick instincts enhanced survival. Paleontologists report that the majority of earliest cave drawings depicted animals and schematic scenes, but many had shamanic or spiritual themes. Living harmoniously with nature was a given for prehistoric man…there was no other way.

In a talk entitled “Grief and Praise”, Martin Prechtel shared his insights about traditional native wisdom of the four thousand year old Mayan civilization and reminded me of what modern man is missing. Born on a Pueblo Indian reservation into a multicultural family with parents of native Pueblo and Swiss descendent, Martin deeply appreciated his Native American roots. When he moved to Guatemala and married a Tzutujil woman, he subsequently trained with one of the greatest Tzutujil Mayan shamans in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Martin eventually became the shaman to thirty thousand people around Santiago Atitlan during the Guatemalan civil war and is currently a renowned author and lecturer on indigenous culture.

During his presentation (Grief and Praise, available on YouTube), Martin Prechtel compared traditional indigenous wisdom to modern society and mentioned that the native Tzutujil language used the same word for song and weep, because the Mayans considered praise and grief siblings that share the same bed. Every emotion was expressed, encouraged, and supported collectively within his new community. Mental illness and many diseases were understood organically and described poetically with phrases like rage without a home. Unexpressed sorrow was considered in his culture a homeless beast. Connection, compassion, and empathy were the staple of a healthy, Mayan community. If someone sat alongside the road screaming, pulling his hair out, swept up in grief, his clan would sit beside him and listen for as long as it took for the pain to subside. In Western society Martin observed, people would walk on by and think the man must be crazy while the indigenous people intuitively knew that emotions needed a home and a safe environment for expression. The word to be does not exist in the Tzutujil vocabulary because the people considered the world fluid in nature. His adopted Mayan community freely praised what was loved and grieved what was lost. Emotional expression was fluid like water: grief meant you loved, passion was an integral part of life, and grief praises the love that was lost. Alcohol addiction or numbing of the grief was described as someone lost in the water. Martin Prechtel described the difference between the indigenous, modern society and I suspect prehistoric man very succinctly. Life, for these people and I suspect also for prehistoric man, was about balancing reason and emotional expression into a bonded community. In hearing this account, I suspect that this society was mastering the skills of community and incorruptible empathy.

Modern society prizes the human intellect, scientific method, and relies on the Internet for information. But something precious has been lost over time, as empathy, intuition, and the role of human connection became devalued. Sovereignty for ancient man came from one’s wits, strength, and gut instincts, which was bolstered by loving tribe mates and a supportive society. Intellect without heart or a connection to the global community has led to separation, isolation, and eventually terrorism. Equanimity within our body, mind, and soul solidified by a shared incorruptible oneness within ALL of humanity—that I believe was normal to ancient man—needs to be restored in our world today.

Our reptilian and/or emotion brain anticipates trouble usually based on past experiences and the task of our higher brain is to find solutions. Illusions and delusions create shadows that reside in our mind. Our heart, the organ of love, which some people call the seat of our soul, has the power to provide the necessary objectivity to transcend illusions and delusions, which is the formula for renunciation that leads to invincibility. Passion and reason have always been at war with one another. The human mind can waffle and make any decision seem like a fifty-fifty proposition. However, our heart can access the quantum field, intuit accurate information, and tip the scale to enable us to make enlightened decisions.

I imagine that prehistoric man was like the Tzutujil and did not question his or her connection to everything—each other, the winds and tides, the earth, the movements of animals, or seasonal crop cycles. The way humans shared insights that expanded each tribe’s wisdom to one another seems to me more organic than oral. The book, Ethnologue: Languages of the World Though reports that our collective linguistic abilities have expanded into over 7,000 languages. That means 7,000 names for god. That is 7,000 names for suffering, joy, and love. That is 7,000 languages attempting to define the enigma of oneness that our prehistoric ancestors likely took for granted. 7,000 ways to describe an appropriate mind-heart-soul connection is simply a recipe for noticing remarkable similarities, but also perpetuating disparities.

Devolution and evolution are simultaneously occurring events. As humanity evolved, intellect dominated civilized society, intuition was ridiculed, and the important role of the human heart and soul diminished. People were expected to follow orders and orthodoxy from hierarchy in many paternalistic areas of the world, rather than explore oneness through diversity. The work it takes to establish equanimity between our mind-heart-soul connections within the community of ALL of divinity is arduous. While humanity expanded its intellect and ability to communicate, we minimized our ability to recognize our heart and interconnectedness. With that devolution came in a host of plotlines and polarity for the humanity drama. I encourage everyone to remember your roots, follow your heart, and create a home for diversity. Emotional expression needs warm hearts to heal humans, but also society. If not, we can get lost in the water and feelings become….homeless beasts.

Eric Ehrke is a psychotherapist at Ommani whose book, The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) was published in February 2019.

Eric sees patients at Ommani on Mon, Tues, & Wed.  Call 262.695.5311 to schedule.

He will be offering an all-day workshop on Friday, May 17th called Personal Guidance, Intuitive Wisdom, and Meditation 101.

On two Thursdays (May 9th and May 16th from 4:30 to 6:30PM) he will offer Meditation and Mind Body Solutions for Sensitive Teens. See the Announcement/Class Schedule section of the newsletter for more detailed descriptions of the workshops.    

The Knights Templar

The Knights Templar was a religious arm of the spiritual hierarchy of the Catholic Church from 1100 to 1300 AD during the crusades. They were the first multinational organization and quickly became exceedingly rich and powerful. The Templars created an international banking system that built over a 1,000 fortifications and even lent money to kings. Operating above each country’s laws, they only answered to the pope.

They helped create Europe’s first nation-state. According to Freddy Silva in his book, First Templar Nation, Portugal was where the Templars recreated a secret spiritual initiation ceremony that they discovered when they controlled the Temple Mount in Jerusalem around 1119AD. Powerful people traveled from around the world to experience what some thought as an aspect of the Art of the Covenant at the Rotunda of Tomar in Portugal. While the Christian hierarchy focused upon the Ten Commandments, the Templar Knights practiced the tenets within the Tables of Law.

The Tables of Law were considered a kind of Cosmic Equation, which explained the creative forces in the universe according to Freddy Silva in First Templar Nation. Considered a spiritual treasure, the Templars taught selected individuals about laws of cause and effect, which they considered the necessary mysteries to temporal power. Their alchemy principles and spiritual practices they possessed enhanced their health, power, and fighting abilities.

The Templar Knight’s Rotunda of Tomar in Portugal


The Templar Knights was a secret society of powerful men dedicated to temporal power, which was their fatal flaw. They understood some of the powers of meditation, prayer, and alchemical forces, which some used for personal and political gain. They would recruit the most gifted young boys and indoctrinate them into ceremonial rituals, which were based upon sound alchemical truths as to the nature of the temporal world. Rigorous physical discipline helped them develop life and fighting skills. Focused spiritual practices also opened up areas of spiritual power few had ever realized before this time. Only one in ten of the Templar Knights actually fought in battle, while the rest performed other duties.

Their name continues to this day because they preformed heroic deeds at critical points in history. They accessed amazing wealth and political power quickly at an important time in history. A powerful combination of mind, body, and spirit working with nature and pranic power was developed in these knights. This is why they quickly became the most powerful group of men of their time. The lessons learned from their demise are still important today. The hubris of believing they were chosen as favorites and blessed by God opened the door for hidden shadows in individuals and leaders to surface. These unconscious flaws created mirrors for them to explore the most important aspect of spiritual power, self-examination.

Hubris eventually blinded some of them and they engaged in acts of torture and inhumane treatment of others. They saw it as their right and privilege to do so because they thought they were special to God. Their organization eventually imploded and every knight executed due to their inflated sense of entitlement that violated core spiritual principles. Of course, not all of the knights were blinded by temporal power and many were dedicated to true spiritual principles. Unfortunately, a tipping point was reached and only a small number of honest, dedicated men remained at the time of their demise. The rush to power based on the flawed concept that they were the chosen favorites of God did them in.

At some point no matter what spiritual tradition one embraces, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror with a dedicated desire to see the truth no matter how difficult or painful the truth may be. The fires of truth will reveal every illusion of everyone on the spiritual path. The concept of being chosen and special to God will always tumble the most powerful. This is akin to a crack in the foundation of a home. If it is not attended to with total dedication, the whole house could come down. This is what happened to the Knights Templar.

They didn’t have oversight provisions and the proper dedication to self-examine their large shadow. Hubris and self-centered motivations toppled an organization that was one of the most powerful forces of their day. Success and failure will always reveal cracks in our foundation. Using spiritual wisdom for temporal power always brings everyone to his or her knees. Temporal power in just another illusion that must be overcome on earth to truly develop one’s own spiritual connection to all there is. We are all one and all the boats in humanity’s ocean need to rise to be in alignment spiritually.

The Knights Templar, unfortunately, lost the trail to love and fought for temporal power that fed love’s illusions for themselves and those they served. Let their lessons not be lost in the sands of time. The Middle East has been a mirror that many have seen what they fear the most.

“I have met the enemy and he/she is me.” At some point, everyone on the spiritual path comes to this truth. The journey to self-discovery and individual spiritual growth always requires a passage into the dark side of our soul where we become lost in the labyrinth of illusion on earth. We need find our path by finding ourselves. Knowing what is truth and what is illusion is how this is done.

When we find the truth of what we are and learn to master our habits and illusions that lead us off our path of enlightenment, we can find love, teach love, and be love with everyone we meet. Illusion is just the absence of love and temporary substances that draw us away from our true nature. They are just opportunities to find out what love really is and what it is not.

Love is the basis of all power. It is subtle, yielding and yet sturdy like the great rivers and oceans of our planet. They flow no matter what people do, say, or prefer. Love needs to be soft, gentle, and acquiescent – yet strong enough to wield swords of justice, truth, and dedication to a cause worth fighting for. The only cause worth fighting for throughout time is love and every person needs to benefit. Not just the chosen ones.

March 2019 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.


The Dark Night of the Soul

Birth is a corporal journey that begins with the illusion of spiritual abandonment. Leaving home and residing in a physical body immediately creates a lasting traumatic imprint that includes separation anxiety and existential agony. The painful remnants of this primal process are directly related to what many poets and authors have called the Dark Night of the Soul.

The Dark Night of the Soul has become a very popular description of what is occurring, but it’s actually a misnomer since our soul never suffers or actually leaves oneness. Our physical being registers the event as an especially “dark night” however. Mortality severs awareness of our divine nature and creates an agonizing memory that is quite challenging to release. It’s an important milestone to master as we return to our divine nature. The Wizard of Oz is a fairy tale offering an inspired metaphor of this timeless journey.

Separation anxiety and abandonment agony create a trauma template when spiritual oneness is replaced by human awareness. A similar emotional imprint occurs when we separate from our mother at birth. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was an orphan, who dreamt about returning home to uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Separation anxiety can become the driving force behind our instinct to bond with friends, family, and lovers.

Healing occurs through the heartfelt connection and sympathetic resonance. Uniting our physical, emotional, and mental bodies and embracing our pain with supportive behavior and a loving heart helps release our abandonment imprint. Trauma heals when emotional residue is embraced with loving acceptance. Remembering that our soul is always present and never abandons is helpful.

This knowledge is necessary to navigate through the darkest illusions this world has to offer. A divine abandonment illusion occurs whenever a soul takes human form. The Dark Night of the Soul is the process where we physically heal this original existential abandonment agony within ourselves, while our soul and divinity supposedly aren’t around. Embodying love and healing our primary human abandonment illusion during endless trials like Job suffered in biblical times with heartfelt acceptance is quite a feat. Dorothy modeled this same quality throughout her ordeals in The Wizard of Oz. Accomplishing this task during what seems like endless dark nights fulfills one of the main purposes for human existence. Why would the divine create spiritual separation and make us experience it right off the bat? We come to earth to forget our origins, remember our spiritual home and come to the realization we were never abandoned. We are also here learn how to embody love and teach our heart, mind, and body the deepest truths about our true divine nature. I would describe what we are doing as playing a spiritual game of hide-and-seek.

One of the reasons the story of the Wizard of Oz endures so powerfully in our culture is due to the fact the fairy tale aptly describes our soul’s journey on earth. Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we can go home whenever we want by fighting off illusion, deciding to return home, and clicking our ruby slippers.

Most of us have a trusty toolbox of reliable habits, rituals, and solutions that are near and dear to our hearts. When trouble erupts some of our strategies are useful… and many are not. Pain is designed to strip away every habit and mental construct based on illusion.

Darkness blows up our emotional security blankets like the locusts, floods, and plagues that forced the Egyptian Pharaoh to change his mind in the Bible. Pain and suffering humble. A problem of epic proportions always narrows our attention and pries open closed minds. The desire for something new motivates us to reexamine and shed any illusion weighting us down.

When life kicks away our crutches, many collapse and believe that the divine has abandoned them. When our “monkey mind” surrenders and learns to embrace the purpose of pain, the following three suggestions are designed to get us back on track.

  • Surrender control and let go of the outcome.
  • Scour your mind for its pain-filled illusions.
  • Dedicate yourself to truth without sacred cows.
  • Accept solutions based upon your highest good.

 Maintaining a solid spiritual connection to eternal wisdom during problems of biblical proportions, accomplishes our goal of mastering illusion, communicating with our soul, and embracing divinity. It’s a grand occasion worthy of the celebration Dorothy enjoyed in the Emerald City and with her family when she accomplished the same feat by returning to Kansas. Kansas is a lot like heaven, isn’t it?

The courage necessary to fight through all the illusions that this world has to offer is prodigious. The seduction to succumb to the hatred, strife, and agony of feeling abandoned is very tempting at times. Some begin to question whether or not Kansas exists when they feel alone in the darkness. The Dark Night comes as the last form of illusion so that the sunlight of our soul can come shining through to enlighten our life and everyone around us. It’s the crowning achievement after fighting off all the darkness illusion could muster so that we could develop the love in our heart and wisdom necessary to return to our divine home just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

The Dark Night is a right of passage honored by every mystic in every tradition. It is the last hurrah or test of illusion to overcome before the dawn of our new life. Consider yourself honored if it crashes into your life like a wrecking ball. Follow the four suggestions outlined above when things are at their darkest. Resist the temptation to succumb to despair while the agony persists. Don’t forget what’s really occurring, because Kansas is just around the corner.

When storm clouds bring chaos, nothing is working and you do not know what to do, remember to love with your heart and soul like the straw man, access the wisdom within like the tin man, and face your problems with the determination of a courageous lion. When the world crashes down around you, it’s a signal to your mind to give up any illusion of control and surrender to new possibilities and unforeseen solutions, just like Dorothy discovered on her way back home again.

Rugged individualism is not on the yellow brick road to home, Dorothy needed many friends to find Kansas. Steel your will, surrender control, and run to the divine. Embrace your intuition because something important is about to happen during the Dark Night. Access your light and use your soul’s wisdom as a gyroscope for your heart to discover the truth of who you are. It’s the only way to go . . . “my pretties.” Kansas is just a click away when your body, mind, and soul are in alignment. And always remember . . . “There is no place like home.”

Feb 2019 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

The Taj Mahal and Purpose of Spiritual Practice

Life is difficult and illusions about being small lead us astray every day. When lost in a crowd viewing the winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World, it’s easy to feel insignificant. Viewing architectural perfection while ethic division, climate change and terrorism thrive provides a paradoxical lesson about love and illusion. Since time immemorial parables, fables and myths were created to inspire humanity. Theologians, philosophers and spiritual traditions have always provided a higher purpose to human existence.

Awe-inspiring to this day, grief and love actually birthed the Taj Mahal. It’s the final resting place for Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. Shah Jahan, whose Indian reign spanned thirty years from 1628-1658, built the mausoleum in mourning. Built on the banks of the Yamuna River, our guide said it was designed to look like its suspended in air as the doorway to heaven. Unfortunately, love stories don’t always have happy endings. Once the Taj Mahal was completed, Shah Jahan’s son overthrew his father and threw him in prison. The Shah viewed his final resting place from his prison cell for eight years before joining his wife. After visiting the Taj Mahal and witnessing its translucent marble reflect light, no picture can come close to capturing its beauty. About 7-8 million visitors come to see India’s crown jewel every year.

When daily routines and basic survival dominate human awareness, everyone aspires for something greater. However, embodying a higher principle while enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune is quite challenging. I can only imagine what it was like for Shah Jahan to view his Taj Mahal from a prison cell. Praying for help for impossible causes may indeed be an eternal practice. In every spiritual tradition, the divine wields awesome power. Most of us pray for help and credit our beloved deity for assistance rather than claim any creative input. Most religions and spiritual belief systems support this practice.

Consider the possibility that humanity has creative powers and mirrors of hope exist in the midst of desperation. Prayers and heartfelt intentions create energetic vortexes. People, philosophers, and theologians always assign meaning to mystical experiences. The universe is flexible so each person, no matter their orientation can realize their divine form. When people experience the transcendent, we experience divinity…our divinity.

Whenever we transcend our day-to-day existence, we feel empowered. This is how and why temples, shrines and in reality all religious practices work. Mystical occurrences stir our soul when we experience transcendence. The opportunity to remember home, taste our mystical power or touch the heart of another or be touched inspires. Herein lies the purpose of every heartfelt spiritual practice or sacred site. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Taj Mahal inspires.

The challenge of a true seeker is the realization that we are creating everything in our lives. Saints, prophets and deities provide models of hope and worthiness to remind us that anyone can overcome impossible causes. Even if we dream for something small, any unspoken dream associated with our intention can be accessed this way. Grace can happen at any time from these belief systems and the power of grace. Everyone has experienced grace in his or her lifetime. Our pure heart, loving intention and innocent heartfelt wish expressed a dream and created the outcome we desired. Herein lies the important purpose of deities, saints and in reality all sacred artifacts, temples and shrines. Spiritual practices remind us of mystery, power and the all-powerful love that we think lies beyond our grasp and yet in reality, it’s in the palm of our hand.

The divine spiritual and physical dance is seen as a marriage of masculine and feminine energy to make it more understandable to humanity. In reality, it is the same dance between our physical and spiritual nature. Deities provide mirrors, as do all religions and spiritual practices to help us see our self in the mirrors of illusion on earth and see the divine smiling to help us release our troubles, if only for a moment…and see yourself in the mirror. People want to give credit to their deity. But in reality, it is really our soul disguised as a human remembering our divine origins.

Humanity’s invisible nature seems all-powerful since it has the ability to create in the astral plane. Our body is challenged to learn how to actualize intention into action, mental discipline and the emotional integrity to realize our dreams into reality. Therefore, manifestation is seen as mysterious, powerful and must originate from a deity. Our human nature often feels fragile and inept. However, when we access our divine nature, visit sacred sites or engage in spiritual practices, people become energized, enriched and empowered beyond belief. In reality, we are creating our experience by imaging the divine visiting us. When we remember who we are by aligning our behavior, emotions, and intellect to such an extent that our soul supports our intent to our highest good. Spectacular results like the Taj Mahal are then created and serve as living vortexes of love that continue to inspire.

Jan 2019 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani. He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

The Cows of India

Spiritual concepts, abstract thoughts and conditions of grace often seem strange to the uninitiated. The thought that every two and four-legged creature bears a soul has roots in many cultures around the world and provides the underlying rationale for many vegetarian societies and spiritual practices.  

In the Hindu tradition the cow represents the qualities of mother earth, because they provide bountiful riches such as milk, butter (ghee) and yogurt. Since wood is scarce in many areas of India and coal pollutes, cow dung is dried and sold on the roadside to heat homes. Who hasn’t felt more peaceful and nurtured after drinking some soothing milk and sitting by a warm fire?

India has created an environment where each cow is worthy of respect, honor and consideration. The symbolism of treating each human similarly is thus provided daily to everyone. Putting up with cows sitting in the middle of traffic, eating farmer’s crops and pooping everywhere are seen as necessary facts of life because they are considered divine beings like every human. By accommodating each cow then every person can expect similar considerations. Cows are a nuisance and sometimes block traffic, but they provide a daily template for tolerance and unconditional acceptance for what we cannot control.

People always provide tolerance challenges and every one of us need to find ways to accommodate annoying proclivities and obnoxious behaviors. In its treatment of cows, the Indian culture provides a wonderful example to the world of accommodation, nurturing without exploitation and spiritual acceptance without conditions.

Imagine the world developing a similar perspective for immigrants seeking sanctuary. By tolerating inconveniences merely because we have the capacity, America could demonstrate our commitment to humanity. Many countries and societies are facing a toleration crisis at this moment in history. Is intolerant behavior acceptable from our leaders? How often do we judge unfortunate souls without mercy who inconvenience us?

India has provided a living example of the qualities of acceptance, tolerance and accommodation of cows. It works because the country says yes to the spiritual concept of oneness even though it seems so impractical and without merit to the untrained eye. Every act of compassion and generosity, when expressed through the lens of materialism and capitalism without heartfelt connection to the weak and humble can be seen as foolhardy. However, if this planet is to survive and thrive in every way necessary, the sanctity and security of every species needs to be attended to with love and compassion. Then every soul will reach a place of contentment and security, which is so important to everyone’s survival.


Dec 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at the Ommani Center. He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call us at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.    

Eric’s new book, The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World is scheduled to be published Spring 2019 by Roman & Littlefield Publishers.

The Victim Perpetrator Paradigm (Part 2)

The essential elements that create victim consciousness were discussed last month in Part 1. Since in takes two to tango, perpetrators will be discussed next. Blamers blame others for what occurs in their life. Blamers lack self-awareness and fail to develop the necessary self-discipline to self-examine. The projective quality of a perpetrator’s emotional defense system is often flawed in the same way as someone ensnared in victim consciousness. They don’t see their mistake, illusion or their unconscious hand orchestrating the whole experience. Aggressors are frequently dissociated from their own pain/agony and mistakenly act out their projective rage, hate or distain of themselves on others.

Pain provides information about our internal malfunction and reveals imbalances in our body, heart, and mind. If a bully decides to be cruel to another child for example, the form of illusion provides the idea and the opportunity for a perpetrator to experience cruel impulses and the possible enjoyment or internal emotional release from watching someone suffer. The pain that the bully imposes on his victim is a mirror for both the bully and victim. The bully may feel a twisted form of empowerment momentarily by copying a perpetrator that victimized them. A victim may re-experience a “worthless scapegoat” illusion and/or imagine retribution will right wrongs by dreaming that bullies “get what they deserve” later.  At the core, the bully and the victim are exactly the same—both dream of power.

Victims and perpetrators heal with love and compassion. When retaliation, projection, and revenge become our primary motivation, a victim/perpetrator paradigm can develop. In this reciprocal relationship, victims can be compared to a catcher behind the plate in baseball, while perpetrators are pitchers. Each is convinced he or she is engaging in a solitary activity, but the catcher fails to realize how he throws the ball back to the pitcher to continue the game. This timeless dynamic allows the tragic drama of pitch and catch to endlessly recycle. Retaliation, self-soothing pity-parties of helplessness, finger-pointing hopelessness and retribution fantasies are the types of things keeping the ball in play.

This failure to become self-responsible combined with a dysfunctional primary love template of internalized pain and/or dissociated rage can lead to a victim/perpetrator paradigm. Those claiming victim status and perpetrators hold opposite sides of a reciprocal pole within the victim/ perpetrator paradigm, since both struggles with personal responsibility and internal emotional honesty. Perpetrators and victims victimize themselves and each another while claiming innocence and blaming the other, which recycles the victim/perpetrator paradigm.

The victim/perpetrator paradigm provides opportunities for everyone to see their reflection in the mirrors of illusion. Whether in that moment we are the bully or the victim, mirrors are provided with the strength and power necessary to get our attention so that we can see our twisted dream or cruel reflection and eventually find where love exists.

Here are some additional considerations within the victim/ perpetrator paradigm:

  • Perpetrators frequently were victims of violence and/or emotional or physical neglect.
  • Perpetrators seek victims to project unwanted emotions upon and victims feel victimized and then flip-flop roles.
  • Anger/rage and helplessness/passivity are different reactions to the suffering continuum, but both methods dissociate from personal trauma.
  • Dissociation cuts off the ability to feel our own pain but seeing another suffer can provide a twisted sense of relief.
  • When emotional indifference and/or violence are modeled, the victim can encode a sense of unworthiness or invisibility as a primary love template survival strategy.
  • Violence projects internal rage onto another and is another primary love template survival strategy that masks vulnerable emotions within perpetrator.

The victim/perpetrator paradigm occurs because people are disconnected from internal wounds within their hearts, which makes any objective form of self-examination extremely difficult. Sometimes narcissism and entitlement primary love templates develop to mask emotional wounds, which blind us from realizing the harm we cause others and ourselves. Unfortunately, on a bigger scale, recycled rage and love linked to pain is also the reason why the victim/perpetrator paradigm persists. Throughout human history, bullies, predators and abusers terrorize, while martyrs, saboteurs and those using other passive forms of rage tend to self-victimize. Children raised in these environments frequently link love with pain and abandon (self-sabotage or victimize) themselves in similar “invisible” ways just like the models witnessed from parents or abusers.

This phenomenon is how cycles of abuse, victimization and self-sabotage have proliferated and perpetuated themselves in both families and the larger society alike. The victim/perpetrator paradigm is involved in repetitive cycles of violence imposed upon races, cultures and ethnic groups. Dishonorable leaders often use victimization rhetoric to grab power with calls for patriotism to justify wars, genocide and prejudice. It is the root cause for generational grudges and ethnic wars that still rage today.

Primary love templates recycle until we become conscious and create a new path. Twisted over the millennia, this paradigm has mutated into the insidious virus we commonly call terrorism. Our encrypted primary love templates and victim/perpetrator paradigms of neglect or abuse we inadvertently recycle are our responsibility to resolve. Reviewing and addressing every dysfunctional pattern recycling our suffering is a good practice and requires self- realization. It can be daunting to deal with victim and perpetrator tendencies on our own. Please seek assistance if you run into trouble, because brutal self-knowledge is critical to untangling dysfunctional patterns and templates. Facing negative patterns on your own can be overwhelming.

Nov 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

The Promise of Wholeness – January 2018

The Promise of Wholeness

A Two-Day Workshop about

Cultivating Inner Peace,

Mindfulness, and Love

       Course Leader: Eric Erhke, LCSW, LMFT

This two-day course offers practical strategies and self-realization tools to deepen the original concepts within my book The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World.  The name of this course is entitled The Promise of Wholeness to reflect the title of my book, courtesy of Roman & Littlefield Publishers who is scheduled to publish my work in the spring of 2019.

Cultivating inner peace, mindfulness and love can feel like three bridges too far. To most of us, the odds of becoming whole and realizing these three milestones seem as likely as winning the lottery. The following course will provide information and experiential exercises designed to address inner saboteurs and provide effective solutions.

The Promise of Wholeness Course:      Friday, January 25, 2019   9AM-4PM

                                                                    Friday, February 8, 2019   9AM-4PM

                                                                    (Please bring bagged lunch)

Fee:    $220 (must be paid in full at time of registration)


How to Register:  Call the Ommani Center at 262.695.5311

                               Cash, check or credit card accepted

                               Early Registration, on or before January 11, 2019,  Reduced Fee – $195

Where: The Ommani Center, 1166 Quail Court, Suite 210, Pewaukee, WI 53072, 295.695.5311

This two-day course will address the following topics and provide experiential exercises to create inner peace, mindfulness and love in your life:

  • Healing the victim-perpetrator paradigm to create peace within
  • Re-writing primary love templates to create more love
  • Inviting grace and forgiveness into your life
  • Learning how to cherish yourself and your illusions
  • Expanding your compassion, mindfulness and soulfulness
  • Soothing our infantile, childish, adolescent stress responses
  • Creating boundary awareness to address emotional contagions from others
  • Developing incorruptibility in the midst of chronic challenges
  • Becoming whole, how the forms of Illusion, Love, Grace, Cherish, Equanimity, Empathy, Incorruptibility and Wholeness work with the Camel Wave Mediation

Philosophers, mystics and compassionate healers have attempted to point humanity towards wholeness since time immemorial. After practicing psychotherapy for forty years and researching traditional Eastern and Western wisdom on these topics, I wrote my book to pass on what really works. I will provide the ancient philosophical foundation and effective strategies to develop inner peace, mindfulness and loving relationships.

Embodying immortal principles and developing effective practices to experience our divine origins in the midst the divisiveness of everyday life are worthy goals. Reconciling our daily challenges and merging into mystical union through meditation makes humans feel whole. The Promise of Wholeness is a course about love, mindfulness and reunification, and how to get there from wherever you are. 

Contact Eric via email at:  with questions or for additional information.


Eric Ehrke, LCSW, LMFT, is a determined pathfinder who understands the tangled overgrowth of illusion. Relieving suffering and restoring wounded hearts is his passion. During his forty plus years of psychotherapy practice, Ehrke recognized early on that modern psychological wisdom, ancient philosophical principles and complimentary mind/body/spirit approaches universally lead humanity towards lasting peace and wellbeing. Inspired, he has merged traditional knowledge with practical applications to create effective approaches to transform pain, transcend circumstances, and increase our capacity for love. His book The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness, and Love in a Divided World will be published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers in spring of 2019.



Victim Consciousness and The Victim/Perpetrator Paradigm (Part 1)

The following article about victim consciousness is intended to discuss a passive life-style of self-destructive anger and/or retaliatory impulses that blame rather than accept responsibility. The current Me-Too movement, where victims of sexual abuse stand up for themselves and hold perpetrators responsible for their actions is NOT what this article is addressing. Requiring a perpetrator to take responsibility for their actions takes an amazing amount of courage as victims seek equality, accountability and ultimately justice. This article addresses the slippery slope within human shadow, when people interpret every negative interaction as another victimization event.  

Perpetrators have conquered and marginalized individuals, minority groups and countries since time immemorial. People exploit the weak for personal, political and economic power. Sympathetic groups naturally comfort and offer support to those suffering. Empathy and soothing are necessary healing balms that promote emotional recovery. However, using felt suffering and empathic connection, as a weapon is an important illusion to master. Victim consciousness can blossom when self-serving rubbish, and then retaliation, is the actual goal.

Mass media and social networks have proven very effective at persuading public opinion to side with victims, which creates opportunities for future retaliation. Perpetrators win through direct force, while victims engaging in passive forms of retaliatory aggression can trigger what I term the victim/perpetrator paradigm. A complete discussion of the victim/perpetrator paradigm will be discussed in Part II.    

Victim consciousness is extremely seductive because it soothes pain and shields participants from honest self-reflection. When we become the hero/heroine of our story suffering the slings and arrows of misfortune undeserving of our plight, total permission to do whatever we want without consequences, ownership and guilt for payback fantasies is quickly provided.

Entitlement issues ensue when every dark impulse is seen as a righteous response. Victim consciousness offers justification by referencing all the suffering we went through. A sense of narcissism can develop when no one confronts our behavior and every retaliatory impulse is deemed acceptable. Like a co-dependent parent or spouse who never requires responsible actions, victim thinking fills our ears with placating illusions. Any retaliatory thought or self-pity process is embraced because we believe we deserve credit for endured suffering. Anyone confronting our behavior is quickly dismissed as another insensitive perpetrator.

Victim consciousness is a passive form of anger that has metastasized like cancer through mass media and social networks. Jockeying to claim victim status has evolved into an unfortunate art form in the court of public opinion. Victim consciousness is how we can effectively dissociate from our own violent urges of retaliation towards others as well our self-sabotaging tendencies.  

Aggressors and victims have built in reasons for their actions. When the law of attraction starts to intensify painful mirrors, righteous indignation rears its head. As the pain increases the urge to switch roles as aggressor and the victim becomes stronger. An example of this process is when the victim uses their anger and pain to aggress towards themselves and others. In this way, they can use the badge of victim to recruit others to their aid to help them aggress the aggressor.

Victims tend to believe compensation is due for the pain endured. Society trains many of us to want retribution, feel it is our privilege to retaliate and believe we are entitled to do so because we have endured so much suffering. The seduction deepens when people take comfort in the pain and sympathy their story garners. Trouble occurs when we embrace our suffering to soothe our internal wounds. This gives us permission to disassociate from violent urges to retaliate against the perpetrator without examining our self-sabotaging behavior.

One of the possible reasons why people engage in aggressor behavior while in the presence of individuals or groups that hold victim energy will be explored next. The unconscious, psychological energy of victim consciousness actually sends out a frequency that in essence says, “Kick me” or more blatantly, “Hurt me.” Anyone who has been around an individual, who twists every negative outcome into some form of victimization event, may recognize this phenomenon.

What is happening is the law of attraction, which some term cause and effect.  Love begets love, anger begets anger and payback begets payback, are a few examples of how the universe mirrors our reflection so we can see our creations. Unconscious behavior fuels victim consciousness. For example, victimization’s “kick me” frequency is designed to give us feedback that we haven’t mastered our self-sabotage tendencies, payback fantasies and self-responsibility challenges. Perpetrators, who came to work on their problem, to learn to resist actively or metaphorically “kicking” people when they seem so deserving are similarly challenged.

The last topic that needs clarification is self-sabotage. Whenever self-sabotage behavior surfaces, victim consciousness is at play. When we have positive goals and want to enjoy the fruits of our creations, unconscious injunctions or parts of ourselves can ruin our dream because aspects of ourselves don’t believe we deserve success.

Self-sabotage needs to be recognized as a wake-up call to clean up our illusions. Aligning our emotional, intellectual and behavioral focus in one positive direction creates unlimited possibilities. This is the only way to maintain success in life, generate love and/or any worthwhile pursuit. An unconscious individual will frequently not see the connection between a failed goal, mixed internal intentions and the eventual outcome as their responsibility.

People burdened with victim consciousness will experience themselves as innocents victimized by some outside force, bad luck or the mercurial will of a punitive universe. The challenge for everyone, and this is particularly true for people who feel victimized is to seek enlightened responses in the midst of suffering. Self-sabotage is just a wakeup call to get going on our path to psychological growth. If you find yourself soothed by victim thinking, please remember the following axiom, “When you fall into a mud hole…don’t wallow in it.”

Oct 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.