A talk by Tara Brach, well worth listening to.
Best wishes all
A talk by Tara Brach, well worth listening to.
Best wishes all
I’m reading ‘Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relatonships’ by Eric Berne. It’s proving to be an enlightening experience. Berne details in the book different interaction patterns (‘games’) and the pay-off of playing – the pay-off for each person, in the case of a game played between two.
This had me thinking about the relationship I shared with my mother, during adulthood. Was it really so one sided? Was I merely the unwitting victim of a sick individual?
No. Looking at it now, I don’t think I was a passive victim. I think I participated in the dysfunctional game as much as my mother did. There were benefits in it, for me.
I knew my mother lied quite regularly. She said to a person’s face what she knew (or thought) they wanted to hear – but the story she told someone else would be very different. The important factor here isn’t what my mother did; it’s that I knew my mother lied quite regularly.
We’d play a game whereby my mother lied to me about something, and I knew she was lying. She knew I knew she was lying, too, but the charade would be left to stand; an unspoken agreement between us.
Why did I let my mother lie to me? Often her lies were faux cover-ups. She wouldn’t exactly go to any pains to cover the truth, let’s put it that way. You could have driven a truck through the holes in her stories. But, because we were playing a game, it was somehow all the more delicious that we both knew the truth of matters.
My mother’s weak lies were often presented as a way to ‘protect’ me from the truth of other family members excluding me from social gatherings etc. Or to ‘protect’ me from their lowly opinions of me. My mother herself was always the one to tip me off to events though; there was nobody else to do it as I was so isolated by that point. My mother would give just enough information for me to pick up on what had happened (the exclusion, the insult) and then she’d engage in her faux protection act.
On some level I knew very well what was going on. I knew my mother was triggering me. So why didn’t I just call her out on her bullshit? Why carry on playing?
I think I’ve figured out my own pay-off. I liked the sensation of my mother protecting me. Even though she manufactured the situation, even though she made sure I knew the actual, hurtful truth and so didn’t truly protect me from it – I liked play-acting that my mother was protecting me from harm. She seldom protected me during my childhood. As an adult, I cherished this feeling that she was on my side.
Maybe my mother enjoyed feeling as though she was protecting me, too. Who knows.
Another example of my side of the game? For years my mother had an overseas cousin of mine relay information to her about what I wrote on Facebook. Back then, I’d write a lot of angst-ridden stuff. Sometimes suicidal stuff. If you’d have asked me at the time, I’d have either denied thinking my mother knew what I was writing on Facebook – or else admitted to harbouring a ‘vague suspicion’ (but with no proof) that she was effectively spying on me.
I 100% knew she was spying on me though. She occasionally brought up information that she couldn’t have known otherwise. I’m not thick. I knew she had access to the information I wrote on Facebook.
During the process of cutting off from my mother, I confronted her (with much righteous indignation) saying I knew she had someone tell her what I wrote on Facebook. She angrily denied doing so. A few weeks later my cousin confirmed that she’d been passing the info along to my mother. Again – I didn’t need confirmation from my cousin. I already knew.
What game was I playing? What was my pay-off for allowing my mother access to my Facebook posts? If I were serious about wanting to keep that information from her, there were numerous different steps I could have taken to retain my privacy. I didn’t take those steps.
My pay-off? Via Facebook, I was able to let my mother know how hurt, how damaged I felt. I was able to basically lay blame for my situation at her feet without ever saying it to her directly. I was able to exhibit to her how screwed up my childhood made me – able to say ‘look at me bleed, Mum. YOU did this to me’. Any time I got close to confronting my mother about my hurts face-to-face (or even mentioning them indirectly) I was met with self-pitying hysterical crying from her; and I wasn’t strong enough not to capitulate and comfort her. By posting on Facebook I didn’t have to comfort her – and there was probably also the added bonus of humiliating my mother by telling the truth in front of a wider audience.
One of the main tip-offs I had to my mother’s spying was that she would occasionally try and tell me what I should and shouldn’t write on Facebook. You can imagine how difficult that was for her to bring up in casual conversation without it sounding suspicious (impossible). In this way, my mother indicated her discomfort regarding my Facebook activity. I would post some more, effectively sending her a big ‘FUCK YOU’ in response… knowing that in order for my mother to confront me, she’d have to admit to something she never wanted to admit to; the spying. My mother was loathe to admit to any of her duplicitous behaviour – in fact the ‘saintly martyr’ persona she’s carefully constructed is extremely important to her. Perhaps the most important thing in the world to her because it keeps her able to live with herself. I knew all this, and so had my mother in a bind.
I’m not saying I did all this entirely consciously. In fact, it was my lack of awareness at the time that allowed much of it to play out. In retrospect, along with education and a bit of self compassion, I’m able to better understand my own motivations. Perhaps I’ve been wrong in asserting my mother’s entirely conscious choice in the role she played. Since I now know that two of us played at the game – and I know how it felt from my side – I have to consider that maybe my mother acted largely unconsciously, as did I.
What I appreciate about acknowledging ‘it takes two’ to engage in games, is that this approach can serve to empower a person who previously thought of themselves as nothing more than a passive victim; and a sitting duck for future abuse. I now feel more on an even footing with my mother. I wasn’t ‘just’ a victim – I was a participant.
Active participants have options. Herein lies my empowerment.
With increased awareness which can alert me to games I play, and my own motives (along with self compassion which allows my ego defence of denial to drop in order for me to become aware in the first place) I’m in a much better position to steer clear of destructive and abusive game-playing. It’s not a pattern I wish to perpetuate. The situation with my mother was so complex, and so fraught – I’m glad to be out of it. And I’m deeply thankful I have the opportunity now to become a healthy adult.
Sometimes what we thought we might learn from a particular experience turns out differently.
On Feb. 14th I embarked on an intensive healing/recovery programme. I’m not going to mention the name, as I wouldn’t want to potentially put someone off trying a programme that has purportedly helped thousands of people around the world.
In short – I spent 2hrs+ per day, evoking and intensifying painful feelings within myself before imagining releasing them from my body. After about a cumulative 13 hours of this my body felt like it had a virus; and my mind felt clouded… my emotions totally scattered. Sleep became more difficult in general. Nightmares appeared.
Now, according to proponents of the programme, my reaction means the process is working.
I woke up one day and when my mind went to thoughts of embarking on another 2+ hours of visualisation, a slightly laconic, had-enough voice inside of me said ‘For goodness sake – don’t do it‘.
At that point I realised I didn’t have to torture myself – and the internalised clamour of endorsements from people whom the programme has assisted, didn’t even phase me (died out very quickly in fact).
So, this is how I walked away from a recovery programme touted as ‘the only way to truly heal’ and which I was told to expect unpleasant effects from (to be replaced with an intense sense of wellbeing if I just persisted through the initial discomfort).
Yeah. I get it. Looking back, there were a few red flags. The talks that lead me to the programme truly resonated with my own experience though… so I decided to give it a go.
The ironic thing is, I think this experience has given an indirect boost to my healing journey. Though I anticipated the programme being deeply significant and life-altering (in retrospect, how one can ‘expect’ such a thing I’m not sure) I did make one quiet self-discovery. I’m starting to live more in alignment with who I truly am; less affected by the assertions of others. With regards to this healing programme, I was able to try it for myself and make a judgment call based on my own lived experience – because I trust myself now.
I’ve no concern that I have abandoned a path to true and ultimate healing. None at all. My decision was the right one, for me. Two years ago I would have been wracked with anxiety about the whole situation. Something has obviously changed within me during that time – and it is mindfulness and meditation practice that got me to this place.
May we all feel out our own unique and healing paths in life.
I won’t be posting here for a while. A new path of healing has opened up before me; it requires a fair bit of time and cognitive effort. This is something I’m excited to explore.
Recently it came to my attention that life can start improving not only when we drop our denial about the painful things – but when we drop our denial about the positives, the opportunities available to us, as well. For too long I have blinkered myself. There is potential here. I am a human being with worth, and something positive to share.
Now is the time for me to figure out how to heal, grow up, get educated in the right ways – and do whatever it is that I came here to do.
On my way out the door, I pause and send Metta to all beings:
May we all live in safety and health
May we all have understanding
May we all be happy
May we all have ease of being
Best wishes everybody 🙂
Here’s to self-focused healing.
Sometimes, the periods where it feels as though I’ve regressed seem to act like the pull-back of a slingshot readying me for another leap (step, inch…) forward.
And leap, step, or inch – I’ll take it!
I’ve been lucky enough to speak with a wise woman over on Twitter, and she said that even just recognizing when/where we feel ‘stuck’ is a step in itself. True.
I’m currently reading the book ‘How to be an Adult’ by David Richo (I also have ‘Growing Yourself Up’ by Jenny Brown… a theme emerges).
I sincerely recommend this book by David Richo for anybody who wishes there was an instruction manual for how to… be an adult. Adult maturity was not modeled for me growing up, and it’s something I really struggle to figure out. I’ve no shame attached to this fact – it is what it is.
For the first time ever, I’ve taken to highlighting passages & sentences in a book. Richo explains clearly the impediments to us growing up; describing how to move out of passive and/aggressive communication and into an assertive way of being in the world.
I’m not great at writing book reviews, but if you’re interested I’m sure there are more in-depth descriptions of this wonderful book online.
Another great source of wisdom I’ve been lucky enough to tap into are the videos on YouTube by Melanie Tonia Evans:
In the video linked to above Melanie explains that by staying hooked in by focusing on and blaming those that hurt us; instead of saying ‘No’ to them, we are actually saying ‘Yes’. We are not moving away from them, but staying right close to them – on a kind of psychic level. I think Melanie speaks from the ‘law of attraction’ perspective; but one thing I’m finding over time is that fundamental truths can be explained a million different ways, with different terminology. It’s still truth – in whichever form it’s communicated.
At one point Melanie explains how it doesn’t feel good inside when we heap blame on someone. This is true in my own experience – when I get hooked into blaming and feeling betrayed, screwed over etc… it feels as though I’m stuck in a bog. Totally weighed down. So what’s the alternative? We can instead choose to look inside, and tend to the parts of us that hurt.
When I blame others, I abandon my own pain. This means I cannot heal what hurts, and it also means that I am more likely to unconsciously go about hurting others.
So… here’s to turning away from blaming, and toward our own pain.
Best wishes everybody
There is an internal Everest to shift
I strain and strain
trying to push it aside
My lifetime will be spent toiling
if I can’t figure out a different way
I am tired
and my efforts are proving fruitless
My fists flail against solid rock
This is what I’ve been working on the past couple of days.
Getting caught up in creative pursuits can be tiring for me, but it’s very enjoyable nonetheless. Definitely a blessing when I’m able to draw, paint, sing, play music – just for the fun of it.