As we move towards V day and continue the theme of love and the bhodi heart this month in the Aquarian age, I realise that perhaps like me you may have been knocked sideways by the unfolding of yet another layer of grief masked as (depression/ anxiety/ emptiness/ anger etc)asking to be moved to healing in your own family dynamics. If both grief and gratitude are both side of LOVE I believe that until we become skilled with death (letting the untruth of who you believe you are to die) and grieve for the love we wanted and never got from family nothing will change.
Remember that all of our sufferings arise in our forgetting that we are in the season of decay, of shedding and endings, of falling apart and undoing and it all unfolds within our relations – with families, friendships, our bodies and businesses. This is why so many people I work with feel anxious, desperate even. This is not the time whether we want it or not where certainty, ease, growth and confidence are forthcoming. It is clear as the panic, uncertainty and dread of so many people I speak to and support that the pandemic was not enough of a “holy intervention’ to get our collective attention, that we are being asked to tend to the holy ground of our souls so that we may see the value of the shadows and use our personal and collective grief as medicine. If you have Soul animal companions who are journeying through these dark days with you (you probably love animals more than people because they love you just as you are) tell them how much you love and appreciate them. As sentient beings they are affected by our emotions and are such masters of healthy co-regulation too.
As an adult child of an alcoholic parent, you may already know that even after their death, the trauma wounds continue to arise within the family matrix. Trauma is an uncontained encounter with death, it is soul loss at its core that shakes us violently, depletes our vital life force energy, and leads to a decreased sense of potency and power aka dis -ease in body, mind, heart and spirit. As children regardless of our attachment style, we learn that our needs don’t matter, that we cannot depend on family or anyone to keep us safe – that the world is a hostile place. The unspoken family rules built upon shame and fear become “don’t talk, don’t feel, and especially don’t trust” which is how my Trauma to Trust and Mindfulness Change process emerged. I use it as a lifeline to more self love, allowance, healing and forgiveness – as the way back to trusting that you are and always have been enough regardless of how intergenerational and familial trauma bonds have impacted you.
You – are – not – your – hi/story.
It’s a big complex topic layered with subtle nuances, big triggers and full-bodied emotions like grief that need patience, compassion and a hefty dose of discernment. It requires a mindful, loving daily practice that will shift and change depending on whom you are with. As we are shaped by our environment aka the people in it, it is very difficult to change and heal in the same toxic environment but it is possible. Remember that we are traumatised in relationships with others pre 7 year old and spend the rest of our lives healing through our interrelations, especially in our internal family systems and structures where we bought the lies, lines and manipulations about what love as an action and a feeling is in the first place.
As my mentor Gabor Mate says “Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you. Trauma is that scarring that makes you less flexible, more rigid, less feeling and more defended.”
Trauma can also arise in our psyches, not so much from an event, but through erosion; the slow wearing away of the sense of trust, security and worth through prolonged exposure to neglect, abandonment or shaming. This is what is called Developmental Trauma or what I call, Slow Trauma.
Francis Weller says “What makes an experience traumatic, in addition to the pain of the encounter which takes hold of us from the original inciting incident with our families, is the absence of an adequate holding environment capable of supporting us in these times. Pain is not pathology,” as Mark Epstein noted in his book, The Trauma of Everyday Life. The pathology emerges from the isolation that all too often surrounds our experience.”
What we needed in these times were attuned and attentive individuals, (mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent) who could sense the distress we were experiencing and offer us assurance, soothing and safe touch to help us re-modulate our inner states. The holding environment is a form of ritual ground, within which we can pour our grief, fear, and pain and trust that it will be held. It is the “holy ground” on which we learn what “love” is and in it’s absence becomes the pathological “I hit you because I love you” or “we may not have money but at least we have each other“ becomes a minefield for how we perceive love, taking on a feeling of overwhelm and frequently of shame. It is as if we intuitively know that someone should have responded to our distress, and when they didn’t show up, the thought fell on us that it must be because of our unworthiness. It confirms our lack of welcome and belonging, reinforcing our isolation and exile. So in our grief we go on to unconsciously “choose” toxic relationships or an eating disorder, other -ism or a terminal disease as a way to find the “love” we learnt in our family dynamics and perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
If you find yourself hurting right now because a family member has done or said something because “they love you” (especially with sisters that have unresolved trauma wounds and bonds that run deep and were never grieved) gently take a long breath out and soften your heart. Because of the lies we have been told about what love is early on, it has become normalised that causing pain to the ones closest to us is safe -that because “it’s family” abuse is love and has to be accepted and where healthy boundaries and energy management are required. Nobody has the right to treat you that way and it’s up to you to stop it from perpetuating the cycle. The difference between judgement and discernment, tolerance and allowance are that like you, your siblings growing up in a dysfunctional family has taught them based on their own attachment style and original incident of wounding, to tolerate a lot out of fear of being judgemental. Over the years, this unresolved grief and trauma turn into resentment, jealousy and judgement which I often witness playing out with two of my sisters. My other sister who has an ambivalent attachment style removed herself from “family” when I was 11 to live far away in another country with a deep unhealed mother wound.
To survive my childhood I needed to conflate exploitation with love; to falsely imagine that love meant burden, being used, and having to endure. I believed I should settle for the good I have. I was afraid if I raise my standards, be “too much”, say NO to no longer participate in my role as rescuer, clown or scapegoat I’d be alone. Doing emotional labor for others gave me false hope and protected me from the original despair of my childhood. I took it personally and believed it was a shortcoming of mine when people chose to stay closed, be toxic, ghost me, or refuse to grow and evolve. As little girls, we had no choice but to use our own unique patterns of adaptation to survive and adapt to the dramas, struggles, and conflicts of our parents where both the mother and father wound played out differently for each of us. (I will speak to the roles we play in our family systems over on TikTok next week if you like smaller doses of body-mind medicine.)
It took me many years to process and reach a peaceful place of acceptance and allowance for my parents and my sisters by doing the inner work on the mother wound and all the programs around persecution, betrayal, rejection and deaths at the hands of other women over lifetimes. (these run deep in us all and don’t just magically disappear which is why doing the work is so important). My mother saw her mother die in a tragic car accident when she was in her teens and remembers little about her adolescence or her marriage to my father and what she does is painful. Her father quickly remarried, had other children and wanted nothing to do with my mother or her sisters. My father was an adult child of an alcaholic father and an emotionally unavailable mother. Both did the best they truly could with no tools and little self-insight. Being able to discern not judge means that we can forgive the person not the behavior and being able to acknowledge the truth of who they are does not mean that you don’t love them either. When you realise that there was no love withheld; that it simply wasn’t there to be given in the first place, you can then grieve for what you never had and heal.
Through compassionate enquiry and loving-kindness you will find peace and healing – one day, one moment at a time from grieving, you will realise that no matter how hard you tried, how perfect you tried to be, as little girls you never had the power to heal, change or save your mother/father/sister/brother
However you celebrate V day, ask yourself as you go about your day every day in every moment – ‘what would love do here?” then go do, be, know and perceive that energy!
In the words of Rumi –
A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.
I see you
I honor you on your journey
and I send you love