Our emotional pain can be deeply searing. It can bring us to despair, and it can leave us with an empty aching that, for some, can stir thoughts of putting an end to it all.
In truth, the urge to put a stop to our life is not about ending our life, it is about ending our pain, the suffering we are experiencing. People who take their lives at such a time of upset, sadly, are totally misinterpreting what their inner message is all about.
I remember that my mother often seemed to be emotionally alienated, and she seemed to control my father by using her relationship with me to gain her way with my Dad. Her manipulation of my father caused him to feel anger and resentment towards me.
I can remember the sting of my father’s slap on my face. I can remember the sense that I had of myself that said I was bad, not good enough. I always felt that I had to be on guard for that next moment of emotional mayhem in my life.
These are all experiences that would suggest that my pain was personal, and that conclusion is another misinterpretation of the inner message that we can come to believe.
In fact, if we were to go on the premise of that belief, we would be dooming ourselves to a lifetime of unnecessary misery. We would cement the notion that something was wrong with us, and would forever carry the burden of victimhood.
Like chess pawns
What I experienced was a dynamic between my Mom and Dad that really had nothing to do with me. I was nothing more than a chess pawn in their relational dynamic. We can all be like chess pawns, in our world of relating with significant others as we grow up.
When my father left for the Second World War, he was a happily married husband of a nurturing woman. My mother provided him with what he never was able to receive with his mother. My mother was a very maternal woman. She provided for my father the kind of feminine connection that he had craved all of his life. His marriage to her was a dream come true. My mother’s maternal gear was, with my father, placed in emotional overdrive.
When my father returned from war, he had a new four-year-old son. Essentially, my mother had two emotionally dependent males in her life. My Dad was not prepared for this new addition to his life. Returning home from years of war and the expectation of returning to what he had experienced prior to deployment was a huge adjustment for him.
With my Dad, there was always a distance he maintained between us. I could sense his resentment of me, and I always felt on guard against this resentful energy.
I spent a lot of time alone
As a child, I spent a lot of my time by myself. It didn’t hurt that I was introverted. I would go off on my own, on my bike, and explore the un-incorporated tract of homes where we lived. There were horses in a field near our house and a creek up the street.
I became, along with my family, a member of a church in our neighbourhood. I sang in the junior choir and had access to the chapel where I would often go for some quiet time throughout my childhood years.
All the while, I was trying to make sense of my experiences, and created storylines about my life and relational experiences. As with all of us, my storylines are ‘me’ centred in the sense that I am trying to make sense of my life experience. My storylines reflect my experience of my life.
The difficulty with this ‘me’ centred view that we develop about our life experience is that it places us in the centre of things and tends to blot out the context in which life experiences were taking place. We create storylines about what is going on from our perspective that are our attempts to make sense of our life experiences and our interactions with others. We bring to this effort our level of understanding about life and people.
Our conclusions reflect our level of awareness, maturity and emotional development. All too often, our conclusions are not accurate, and as a consequence, we come to conclusions about ourselves that are untrue—that are, in fact, lies about ourselves and our life experiences.
This is entirely a normal occurrence. We all go through these misperceptions about ourselves in relation to our world of life experiences and people. In fact, we spend much of our adult life attempting to make sense of our earlier life experiences.
They did the best they could
One of the most powerful experiences I had in my life happened in my mid-thirties. I was still carrying around various hurts and resentments from my parental experiences of childhood, when it occurred to me that I had not taken into account a reality that had escaped my processing of my life experience with my mother and father.
I realized that, given their life experiences, they had done the best they could. Given their unmet needs, they had related with me in the best way they knew how. In short, they did the best they could with what they had to work with. If they had more to work with, they would have done differently.
This opened up my view of my parents beyond two parents who didn’t meet my needs. Rather, they were Rea and Jim who did the best they could as parents, given where they were in life and what they had to work with.
Mary Grace Orr has written that all Buddhist writings can be summarized as follows: “This is the way it is/Let go/No one deserves your love and kindness more than you.”
What does she mean? This is the way it is means just that. You have an allergy to roses, you have cataracts. Let go means things are the way they are, accept what is and do not try to change things, fix things or resist the reality that lies before us. By resisting what is, we give what we resist energy, and such resistance truly impacts our lives. In essence, what we resist persists.
In the last statement, nobody deserves your friendship and kindness more than you means that we have within us, at our essence, compassion and loving-kindness. Our ability to express that compassion within ourselves is a healing force that we can bring to bear in our moments of pain and suffering. Being kind is a gift from ourselves to ourselves.
It is not personal
Finally, it is a profoundly important thing to know is that what we have experienced in our formative years is not personal. We are not who we concluded we were. What do I mean by this?
- In our mindfulness practice, we have a view of ourselves, often articulated by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others, which asserts that we are not our thoughts, our feelings or our bodily sensations. Who we are is the awareness who observes and witnesses our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
- Our mindfulness practice affirms that it is our thoughts that determine how we feel. Adyashanti has written, “Suffering occurs when you believe in a thought that is at odds with what is, what was, or what might be.” As we have discussed, the storylines that we have created, while they’re our best attempt to make sense of our experiences of life and of others, are flawed for many reasons. Much of our suffering, as we grow up, occurs because we have believed in thoughts that have been at odds with what is, what was or what might be.
- It is also a relieving and healing reality when we realize that what was said about us was our parent and authority figure’s attempt to make sense of their needs and feelings, not an accurate depiction of who we are.
With this insight, our thoughts and our feelings change, and to that extent, what was said was not personal. Consequently, the negative energy that has been a part of our view of ourselves for years can evaporate and leave us.
Instead, we realize that we have believed in thoughts that have been at odds with what actually is, what was or what might be, and that reality can free us from the emotional prison of our ignorance.
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May love, peace, joy and hugs be with you always. image 1 image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 2 image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 3 image by StockSnap from Pixabay 4 image by maximiliano estevez from Pixabay