Primary Satisfactions and Secondary Satisfactions

I found this such a good explanation for how our culture produces so many addictions, including addiction to money.  One sign of “secondary satisfaction” is, no matter how much you get, you always want more.

From Francis Weller:

Through studying traditional cultures and Indigenous cultures, I began to look at how they raised people, the value of belonging, the central sense of your necessity, that you were needed, that you were valued, the value of ancestors, the value of ritual. All these practices kept a cohesiveness so that the psyche didn’t go into that place of feeling empty. Where this emptiness comes from is our hyper-focus on individualism, which began several hundred years ago at least with the Enlightenment.  …

The emphasis began to move from a sense of village-mindedness to the individual. That reached its zenith now here in white western culture in America, I think, where we have abandoned primarily all sense of identity beyond my own interiority. We are separate. We may exist, but there’s nothing that really binds us together in this ideology. This ideology of individualism breeds this feeling of emptiness.

What we do with emptiness are all the isms… Patriotism, nationalism, capitalism, racism. All these isms are attempts to stuff the emptiness with something, because the emptiness is intolerable. We cannot endure emptiness, so we fix it. We also neglect what I call primary satisfactions, which are the satisfactions that evolved over our long evolutionary process of friendship and ritual and singing together, sharing meals, being under the stars together, hearing the stories around the fire at night, gathering wood, grieving together, celebrating together. Those are the primary satisfactions, and almost none of those exist any more.

We then lean into our secondary satisfactions. Power, strength, wealth, privilege, hierarchy, rank, etc. On a more personal level, addictions of all sorts are attempts to stuff something into that hole at the core of our lives, because it’s intolerable. As you know, as an addict, you can never get enough of what you don’t need. …

When we’re in ritual space together, singing together, sharing poetry, grieving together, giving thanks, we’re not wondering where the next iPhone is going to come from or where the next TV set is going to come from or when can I get my new car? We are inside of primary satisfactions, and the soul is content.

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A Container for Initiation

Weller describes the container:

What distinguishes these two things is initiation, what I call the contained encounter with death. The containment was provided by the community, by the elders, by the ancestors, by the rituals, by the space itself. In a sense, you are initiated into a place, not into abstraction. You are actually initiated into the ground beneath your feet. Those are the five things that provided a containment field for that encounter with death, because all initiations require some kind of encounter with death.

Reading this, I realize that Neskaya is a container for initiation.  It totally amazes me that I somehow knew what was needed and created it deliberately. Perhaps it was my indigenous soul that knew, that led me to folk dance, that woke up when I did my first Celtic dance, that sent me to Brittany where I actually danced with a hundred Bretons in a field with live music and a full moon rising.  My indigenous soul that said “Let’s build it!” of the dance hall/dojo my husband and I talked about.  The design, a twelve sided figure made into an 8-sided one by extending the first and third sides, that mirrored the Cross-Quarter days of the Old Nature Religion of Western Europe… which I only realized when I wanted to teach a workshop called “Dancing the Sacred Calendar.”  As we were building Neskaya, every time I drove through Franconia Notch I prayed to the Spirits of the Notch to help us build a building that would raise the consciousness of every one who entered it.  When the foundation was being poured, I sat on the hill above and chanted to Kanzeon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

A statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion has been in Neskaya since the very beginning. It started at the south end of the east wall, and moved around, at one point on top of the east wall, and finally settled at the north end of the east wall, and just seemed to remain there.  One year, as the sun was setting on the Summer Solstice, I noticed that its light was shining through the northwest window directly onto the bodhisattva.  Since then, some trees have grown up on the neighboring property and there’s a refrigerator in the way, but the alignment is still true.  Curious, I paid attention to the sun at the Winter Solstice, and found it shone through the second floor south window directly onto the Bodhisattva.  Maybe she’s been in charge all along…

Neskaya was deliberately built as sacred space, for movement arts that are also sacred practices: such as sacred dance, martial arts, and yoga. This is one component of the container Weller talks about.

For me, the “elders” are people like Bernard Wosien, who believed that the folk dances of Eastern Europe encoded esoteric wisdom.  He made a collection of such dances and took them to Findhorn, where they were eagerly received, and new dances began to be choreographed.  Also people like Laura Shannon, who has studied the oldest women’s dances from Greece, Bulgaria, Armenia, and other nearby countries.  She went to the villages to learn the oldest versions of the dances, still being danced by women in hidden places, usually out in nature.  She teaches a training in Women’s Traditional Ritual Dances.

“Ancestors” are always present when we dance these old dances.  Many times I’ve had the feeling that “we’ve been doing these dances for thousands of years,” and I can sense circle after circle going back into the past. Even some of the new dances call the ancestors.

“Ceremony.” One of my favorite things to do when teaching two hours of Scared Circle Dance on Sunday evenings at Neskaya, and especially for the holidays, is create a sequence of dances that reflects the energy of the holiday, the season of the year.  I sometimes say, only half joking, “If we didn’t do these dances, spring would never come.” Sometimes, especially if there is something going on in the world, we do dances to help shift the energy, or direct it toward health, peace, reconciliation.

It wasn’t until I moved to Kendal, found I no longer had the energy to teach the dances, and ceased to be part of the container, that I was able to appreciate what I had built, and that the building had made possible the growth of a community.  The energy of all the dances that we have done for over twenty years fills the building. Many people say they can feel the energy of welcome, of homecoming, of feeling completely accepted for who they are, as soon as they walk through the door.


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Immanent and Transcendent

From something I wrote in 1996, while I was going through the Summer from Hell:

But the truth is, going over the whole thing in detail again again, writing down exactly what the fear feels like and then seeing how it matches my childhood, results in me feeling much less fearful, much more stable, seeing beyond the shoulders of my parents’ shadows to the possibility of a real Universe, big enough, wild enough, creative enough, compassionate enough, to meet my Soul’s need.

Recently I read the whole statement as part of sharing my “Spiritual Journey”  with the Quaker Community in Hanover.  What I saw was that if my soul needed a universe that was big, wild, creative and compassionate, then my soul was big, wild, creative, and compassionate, and since my soul is a hologram of the Universe, then the Universe must also be at least as Big, Wild, Creative, and Compassionate as my soul.

Another piece that helped this get deeper in my experience is the book by Thomas Hübl, Healing Collective Trauma.  He lists a number of words that humans have used for the concept “God,” and goes on to say:

“Any human word or concept fails to capture the essence of its subject, which to ancient and modern hearts expresses a thing both vast and singular, absolute yet relative, simultaneously many and one, both personal and ineffable, radically manifest and somehow silent and formless.

“A quality both immanent and transcendent.

“It is impossible to give a name to a divine paradox.”    p30

This made so much sense!!  That’s why sometimes “God” appears covered with a sheet, or comments right away, and then I have an experience like the “Ocean of Compassion” where I could feel the compassion, but there was no person.  The being that talks to me, and the impersonal universe I try to comprehend are both Divine Source.  As I am in the process of getting this, I see a huge transparent woman, a look of complete tenderness on her face, holding out her hands toward me, and I feel held in warmth.

Thank You.

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Expendables and Empire

The Empire was characterized by an abysmal gulf separating the upper from the lower classes.  On one side of that great divide were the Wealthy, who made up 1% of the population but owned at least half of the wealth.  Also on that side were three other classes:  the Politicians, who could own as much as 15% of the wealth; the Retainers ranging from military generals to expert bureaucrats; and the Merchants, who probably evolved upward from the lower classes but could end up with considerable wealth and political power.  On the other side were, above all, the Workers, that vast majority of the population about two-thirds of whose annual income went to support the upper classes.  If they were lucky, they lived at subsistence level, barely able to support family and social obligations, and have enough left over for emergencies.  If they were not lucky, drought, debt, disease, or death forced them out of their jobs, their houses repossessed, and into unemployment, welfare or homelessness.  This put them into the Degraded and Expendable classes — the former with origins, occupations, or conditions rendering them outcasts; the latter, maybe as much as 10% of the population, ranging from people working at jobs paying less than a livable wage and veterans with PTSD to drug addicts and beggars.  Those Expendables existed, as that terrible title suggests, because the Empire usually contained more of the lower classes than the upper classes found it profitable to employ.  Expendables were, in other words, a systemic necessity.

Does this sound familiar?  The first time I read it, some years ago, it didn’t hit me with the same horror as it did today.  This is actually a description of the Roman Empire in the first century AD, ancient terms suitably translated.  It comes from a study by Gerhard Lenski, quoted by John Dominic Crossan, in Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p25.

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Trauma vs. Initiation

Francis Weller, from a talk published in Kosmos Journal:

In any true initiatory process, there’s three things that happen. First, there’s a severance from the world that you once knew. Then there’s a radical alteration in your sense of identity. And then there’s a profound realization that you can never go back to the world that was. In true initiation, you don’t want to go back to the world that was. Initiation is meant to escort you into a wider, more inclusive, participatory, sacred cosmos.

Trauma, on the other hand, has the inverse effect. The same three things happen. There’s a severance from the world. There’s a radical alteration of the identity and in a sense, you cannot go back to what was. But what trauma does to the psyche is it reduces it down to a singularity. I become cut off and severed from that sense of being engaged with a wider and more encompassing sense of identity. I become isolated in the cosmos. If you talk to anybody who’s gone through trauma, that’s the effect that it has on the body and on the psyche. You are torn out of that sense of being a part of the cosmos.

This is exactly how I feel when the world becomes cardboard, and probably how I felt as an infant and left alone.

What distinguishes these two things is initiation, what I call the contained encounter with death. The containment was provided by the community, by the elders, by the ancestors, by the rituals, by the space itself. In a sense, you are initiated into a place, not into abstraction. You are actually initiated into the ground beneath your feet. Those are the five things that provided a containment field for that encounter with death, because all initiations require some kind of encounter with death.

What I call trauma is an uncontained encounter with death. There’s nothing there holding you when that same precipice is approached. You are left basically naked, nothing holding you. Again, you contract back into a place of survival in that moment rather than expand out into that wider, cosmological sense of being. We don’t have those containment fields in white, western culture. We still live through these encounters with death, which are inevitable. I often say initiation is not optional.

This total validation of my experience, along with the revelation from my most recent post about the connection between Mother’s not being able to mother me and my struggle with having to ask my friend Eleanor to leave, has resulted in a big change.  It’s lasted a couple of days, I hope it will last longer.  It’s a sense of my basic goodness. How much I wanted to help my friend, to the point of endangering my own life, how I was angry at myself for not being able to keep helping her.  But I never blamed her, and I struggled with my feelings instead of drinking.  I did finally see that I had to say no, that it had been wrong of me to keep going so long, but I continued to be angry at myself.  It took nearly 30 years, getting on medication, understanding that I had been traumatized, doing Somatic Experiencing, and then working on attachment issues with Erica.

The other piece I saw as I was writing the previous blog, was that the Universe had brought the Kosmos article to me at just the right moment, that the 27 years of work had been necessary, NOT because I was a weakling, NOT because I didn’t work hard enough, but because the task was so difficult and I didn’t have all the pieces.  Even bigger than feeling that I can trust my basic goodness is the feeling/knowing that I can trust the Universe to bring me what I need, not necessarily when I ask for it, but when I’m ready and able to use it.

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“It’s not OK to be a baby”

The first draft for this post was done on December 28, 2020.  I think I must have got too sidetracked by the further lockdown and not talking to Erica over the holidays  to continue with it.  I see that it’s part of the story told in recent posts.  One part of me is upset that I’m still struggling with this, another part suggests that this much time had to elapse, I had to do some other work before I could really address it, perhaps I even needed to be working with Erica on the attachment issues.

Going back and reading that post I find that the other thing that was happening in the fall of 1992 was having asked Eleanor to leave, and then being tangled in agony about it. Reading my agonizing I see: I wasn’t capable of taking care of a dear, younger friend who was in trouble.  I finally had to turn my back on her, and then felt terrible about it.  NOW, only while doing this blog post, do I see that my situation was exactly what I describe for Mother:  I can’t take care of my friend, see that it makes me a bad friend, but I try my hardest to not blame her, I blame myself.  And instead of drinking to numb the conflict, I keep struggling with it.  I think it took sending Mother to the Light, and then identifying the 2-yr-old, before I could come to this understanding.  I feel relief and tears, and I throw my arms around 2-yr-old and tell her “You were doing the best you could with an intolerable conflict.”

from journal for September 18, 1992

At one point I said something about wanting to do a dialogue with the inner mother. Karen set me up with a cushion to represent baby Jenny, who is feeling upset and powerless and doesn’t know what to do.  When I switched to the mother side, I found I had no good “advice”, no useful thing to say, I felt equally upset and powerless and didn’t know what to do.  I held the “baby” and told her that.  Karen said “You don’t have to say anything, just be with her, just tell her it’s OK to be the way she is.”  I tried, but I couldn’t do it, I threw the cushion on the floor and pounded on it shouting “It’s not OK to be a baby, it’s not OK.  I don’t know how to take care of you, I want you to grow up fast and take care of me.”  Then I collapsed into sobs, I couldn’t believe I was saying that, in fact I stuck my butt up in the air like a baby pose, and cried and cried.  I went back and forth between trying to comfort the baby, and telling her it was not OK to be a baby.  Finally I got to the place where I could see that it was silly to tell a baby that it was not OK to be a baby.  Karen said something about the difference between not feeling OK and not being OK.  But I can see that I haven’t got it yet, though I’m glad to have the whole dynamic up in the air where I can see it.  It explains a lot about my pain about my mother, my expectations of myself. 

September 30, 1992

Work with Karen.  I saw an image of a baby who had been left to lie in its own shit, no one came to clean it up.  I could even smell the shit.  But I was identified with the person who was nauseated by the smell and didn’t want to clean it up, rather than with the neglected baby.  It’s still not OK to be a baby and to have needs.  Karen said that when those early needs were seldom met, or partly met and then nurturing was withdrawn just as I was starting to take it in, that then I would get into a posture of rejection, armoring myself, “independence.”  She asked how I would armor myself.  I said I go dead, I don’t feel.  But the need doesn’t go away, it’s there like a lump in my stomach.  What do I need to stay with that lump?  I stayed with it and discovered that it was like an egg, it needed to be incubated: I needed to surround it with warmth and patience, and let it ripen or hatch in its own time.  It feels easier to be patient and nurturing with myself through this image of the egg, than to wait in discomfort, hoping something will change and then starting to push myself.  The hard part is trying to “justify” being nurturing and protective of myself when I can’t imagine that I could ever produce something (a work of art, a book?) that would be valuable.  Karen said, from what she had seen of my creative process, that what I produced was “touching, … passionate, and very real.”  (There were two other adjectives after “touching” but I can’t remember them)  I could feel my stiff protection melt, and I began to cry.  What I need is not support or approval, but sensitive, intelligent, and honest feedback.  I’m sure that my protectiveness melted because her words were accurate.  Driving home it occurred to me that perhaps what I’m incubating is not so much a work of art as a new self.

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Younger Parts of Me

In my therapy session for January 15, one of the things that came up was that the only thing that would have made Mother happy would be to not be my true self.  Younger parts of me are bewildered by this.  The cost to me was to not be able to hold on to positive things about myself.  All the anger I feel is at myself, for not being able to do better, which actually means live up to a more conventional idea of what a life should look like.  I end up feeling stuck in a young one, there’s no awake adult anywhere around.

Erica asks me to pay attention to how my body feels to identify which part I’m in.  First: feeling my arms reaching out for help, “I’m really struggling”— this is a baby.  Second: hands up to push away, “I don’t want anything to deal with it,” — this part is 3 years old.  Third: heart soft but shielded, a sense of “almost compassion” for 3-yr-old — this part is 5 years old. O poor little things, my heart softens and tears come.  I pick up the baby, offering safety, she starts to cry.  I sense that any attempt to help 3-yr-old might put her off, so I think about just sitting next to her. The 5-yr-old is confused, but I remember having an honest discussion with her in the past.

The discussion was in 2006, and I did a blog post about it. This 5-yr-old is hurt and angry, which may be why she feels “almost compassion” for the angry 2-yr-old.

From my journal for January 15:

I wanted to work more with these younger parts of me, but too much has been happening.  today in reading through my blog, I came to one titled “Finding Compassion,” March 2014. I write that my friend “Elizabeth saw a dynamic of a mother hating a helpless frightened baby, which sounds very accurate.”  I start to feel compassion for my mom, and go on to say: “As I paid attention to this mother, I could feel her hating her baby, hating herself for being a bad mother, hating her baby because the baby wouldn’t be comforted and that made her feel like a bad mother….  and having no resources at all to deal with it.  So there’s no way she could be conscious of any of it.  What an intolerable bind.  No wonder she drank.”

OMG what a tangle of conflicts.  The baby is unhappy, the mother has no skills to comfort (too immature, and her own mother wasn’t much good) but she can’t face that, so she blames the baby instead of seeing that she’s failing as a mother. This is what 3yo is feeling, angry at the baby, 5yo is picking up the misunderstanding and confusion, but doesn’t have any way to understand what’s going on.  What I see, only now, is that I introjected the angry mother at a very young age.  I have always treated myself worse than I ever treated anyone else, and I have continued to get angry at myself for “not being able to get out of a bad mood.”  Even now, I’m still cross with myself because I have so few moments of happiness.

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Guidance from 1993

I’ve been reading my journal from 1993 and found many entries that resonate with this moment in my life. Alas, at this moment I am having a very hard time. I think due to social distancing, I’ve been triggered back into feeling very much alone and totally worthless. And being angry at myself for having a hard time. sigh. Right now I feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere in 30 years of struggle to heal from the first things that happened to me.  In 1993 I was dealing with chronic illness, systemic yeast, trying to keep to a very strict diet, etc. Around this time I say in my journal that I feel OK about one day in every ten.

from journal for February 14, 1993

Guidance, please give me some help?

Patience, patience, patience.  You are doing much better at not being angry at yourself for being sick, keep doing it.  Gentleness, patience, curiosity.  Not curiosity about the illness, that just leads you back into “trying to fix it.”  Try being curious about the way you respond to illness.  You are beginning to see how much anger you have toward yourself, your body, your illness.  You need to treat all three as you would a dear friend, a precious child.  You are learning how to do this, and I congratulate you.  Learning how to love your life, in its dailiness, in its difficulty, is what is important for you, not “achievement” as the world counts achievement.  This work in your journal is important because it supports you, not because of its value to the outside world.  Though why should you think of its value as any less than some other job that people do: selling clothing, say, or building automobiles?  What makes you imagine that that kind of work is more important to the whole than what you do?  And isn’t that the value judgement you are making when you see yourself as worthless because you don’t have a “paying job”?  Keeping this journal is a paying job, you pay for it with your life, your pain, your attention to detail, your work on yourself.  Rejoice and celebrate, my dear, you’re doing just fine.

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The Blood-Soaked Bundle, November 1992

This is from my journal for November 1992.  I had no idea yet that I was dealing with PTSD, in fact I wasn’t even on medication.  This is an account of a therapy session with Karen Collins in Montpelier, who is now retired.  Rather than explain every detail, I’ve just given links to what I hope will make sense.

from my journal for November 25, 1992

I took Kiddo and sat there holding her while telling Karen that there was another child, a “wimp”, one who was very sensitive and very emotional, and who had never been given any guidance for how to live with these things.  Then I said that I felt like I was carrying this enormous blood-soaked bundle, and I didn’t know what to do, whether to lay it down and leave it behind — which didn’t feel good, but I was tired of carrying it, and I wanted to go to some old wise woman who would look at me and see a vision and know what to do, and give me herbs to drink, or sing over me, or tell me to fast for nine days, or rub myself all over with red ochre and jump in the river and then I’d be fine.

Karen went and got a shawl and wrapped it around some items, she also found a little “wimp” doll.  She said she was the old wise woman and we made a cave out of the couch and some pillows.  I brought the bundle in and set it down between Wimp and Kiddo.  (She deserves a better name — how about “Waif”)  I apologized to the old woman for getting blood on her floor, and she said that was OK.  I unrolled the bundle and the first item was a colorful party hat.  It made me think of the clown costume I keep wanting to make for myself.  I asked who wanted to wear it and glanced from Kiddo to Waif.  Kiddo reached out for it, but then was aware that Waif wanted it, and then Kiddo wanted her to have it.  She put the hat on Waif and they sat together with Kiddo’s arm around Waif.  I unrolled the bundle farther and saw there were four objects: a root, a bone, a small wooden horse, and a covered box (a plastic carrot, a plastic tube, a toy car, and a plastic cube).  I explained to the old wise woman that the root and the bone were broken off, could not grow, could not heal.  The bone was quite fresh and raw, perhaps from some creature who had recently been alive, perhaps the source of the blood.  I identified the bundle with the miscarriage that Codi buries in Animal Dreams.  I said it was bits and pieces of a childhood that didn’t come off — or of a person that never got it together.

The old woman asked what the horse needed, or perhaps the question was what did I need from horse.  I thought about the cave painting of the pregnant mare, and about riding real horses.  Then I decided that the real manifestation of horse energy in my life was dance, and that I want/need more dance events like Monday night where I can let myself be carried by the dance and the dancers.  The trouble with Heather’s class is it’s just too difficult, the trouble with folk dance, and dancing alone at Bebop studio, is that I have to put out the starting energy.  What I want is a movement group with another leader, or one that runs itself without me.  I wonder if Jeannie and Beth and I could put together some kind of ‘do it yourself’ movement at Bebop once a week?  Anyway, there is the need/want/vision.  I don’t have to know the process.

The old woman asked about the root, what did I need to be able to root myself.  I thought about my wish for a room of my own, and my envy of Beverly building her own house, and wondered if I could build my own studio, my own place where I could spill paint on the floor and hang things on the walls.  I also thought about the odd little shrines at Bread & Puppet, how I could build something like that.  Then I think about my poor health, and lack of energy, and the amount of time it would take.  In some ways I want a studio now, and in some ways I want the ritual/experience of building it myself.  Well there’s no way I’m going to have a studio now, so I guess I could spend the winter working on a design and see what happens in the spring.  I really do have “all the time in the world.”

The old woman asked about the bone.  I held it for awhile and then said that it couldn’t heal because it was no longer attached to something living, it would have to transform.  I had a picture of a box, lined with velvet, ornately decorated like a reliquary, where the bone could rest, as if in a cocoon.

The old woman asked if the bone could go inside the box.  I thought about it, then said no.  The bone needs more space, and padding, and the box is full of some very fine grained, precious substance — incense, pollen, … fairy dust!  I said it was like the box that had gone with Sam through the Quest of Mt. Doom, filled with the earth from the garden of Galadriel.  I realized that I had the illusion that I was supposed to scatter this precious stuff far and wide, when in fact it was OK, perhaps even appropriate, to give only a pinch of it to projects that I thought were worthwhile.  At least until I know how to replenish the box, I have every right to treat it as something precious and irreplaceable.  I said I would put a little in the box with the bone.

The old woman thanked me for sharing such precious things with her, and asked if I would leave the dried blood behind on her floor.  It felt a little scary to me but I said yes.  Then I took the bundle and hid it in the cupboard to be safe.  I brought the Waif doll home with me.  (I told Karen that I was a “sucker for waifs” and then had a twinge for Eleanor.  Karen reminded me not to get locked in, that there were more options, that I could always make changes.)

From my journal for November 26, 1992

Dream fragment: I find a nest of eggs.  It’s hidden in the dirt and dead leaves.  As I carefully brush the leaves away I find seven or eight plump mottled eggs with streaks of bright buttery yellow.  I think they are meadowlark eggs.  They seem to be still warm.

That was an encouraging dream, and yesterday’s therapy session felt very positive, a healing ritual.  As I was driving to Montpelier, I realized that I kept expecting to have a session that would ‘solve’ my complex feelings and/or renew my energy, and that this was unlikely to say the least.  What I’m up against is so old and so tangled, that of course it’s going to take a long time to unpick the threads.  I’m like a woman who finally decided to divorce her husband, and asked him to leave thinking that she would be fine pretty quickly once he was gone.  But no, she has grief and guilt to work through, and then all those feelings that she was able to keep hidden while the relationship was top priority.  I didn’t realize that I was so deeply involved with Eleanor in such an unhealthy way.  The oddest thing is that when she comes by now, I’m glad to see her, have no trouble feeling a lot of affection for her.  But of course, the unhealthy part of the relationship, at least from my side, had nothing to do with her, but only with my inability to validate my own needs and set appropriate boundaries.

When I first talked to Karen about opening up the blood-soaked bundle and seeing what it contained, I got terrified and freaked out.  I was afraid I would remember some horrible traumatic event.  I was strangely relieved when all I saw were a few plastic toys.  Then I realized that I was looking at a miscarriage, at the fragments of what should have been a childhood.  There was never enough safety for the pieces to come together.  This was the result of denial and neglect, not of more overt and violent abuse.  But the damage was nevertheless real.

Now I see that for many years — half a century? — I’ve been carrying a bundle of unmet needs.  The blood they are soaked in comes from unhealed wounds, and present pain, and passionate attempts to understand.  I’ve poured out my blood like water … but I had to look at my needs before healing could begin.  What needs have never been met?  To be rooted in safety and security, to be rooted in myself, to feel that who I am, just as I am, is OK.  To have a strong inner structure that holds me up, a sense of self-esteem, a gentle voice that gives guidance.  To be able to express myself through my body/creativity/sexuality, to trust my body to carry me, to trust a community to carry me.  And finally to have a sense of myself and my gifts as precious, not to be squandered on any project that presents itself, but to be saved and used appropriately.  O yes, I forgot the party hat/clown hat.  What about the need to have fun, to be silly, to play?

One of the things my therapist Erica has been at pains to keep pointing out to me is how my mother completely ignored my needs, and somehow I got the message that it wasn’t OK to have needs.  I also have often been angry when people talk about being “thankful for the gift of life.”  I feel like the gift came to me smashed.


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Did it to be Mean

Reading over my last post I saw these two sentences: [Eleanor] “told Dana that she didn’t see how I could ask her to leave when her therapist was going to be away unless I was deliberately trying to be mean.  Dana said he saw that as an example of how Eleanor saw the world as revolving around herself, she couldn’t conceive of a reason that I might have that had nothing to do with her.”

This reminded me of Mother.  Once, when I didn’t go to a family reunion in Washington DC because I was very sick, my mother told my cousin Susan that I didn’t come because I knew she would be there, and I wanted to hurt her.  Susan told me what Mother said, also saying that she didn’t believe it.  Later, when we all went home one by one to help Mother return to the house after a time in the hospital, Mother prevented me from having a last goodbye with Mama Greene.  They were old enough that I knew it might be my last time to see her, and in fact the next time I went home, Mama Greene was in a nursing home and didn’t recognize me.  She had come to take care of us when I was three years old and was still taking care of mother some 50 years later.  She was a divorced mother of three who needed a job, and her name was Mrs. Greene.  The story my parents told was that I couldn’t say Missus so I said Mama instead, but I think I knew a Mama when I saw one.  So when I was about to leave, Mother told me to call Mama Greene and tell her not to come the next day, my last one. The whole story is here.  I called her and told her I would drive over to say goodbye, but Mother would be hurt and I couldn’t do that.  She said “No, you were never like that.”

But when the difficulty happened with Eleanor, I still half believed that I was a person who would do things deliberately to hurt someone else.  Mother had done her best to convince me that was true.  Thinking of all this, I see why the situation was so confusing and painful, one reason why I was so vulnerable to the neediness of someone I truly cared about, and would go beyond my actual resources to help.

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