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Personal Sharings / Healing Fragmentation

1966 - The Year Our World Changed

It all started with my youngest brother, E. He was 3 in 1966. I was 10 years old, and my other brother K was 8.

K and I were very close. We had survived some pretty awful times together, and had become somewhat accustomed to living with the fire breathing dragon that was our mother. We had learned many survival techniques that kept her rage from coming AT us too much. We were similar in energy, K and I, both tending toward yin energy, fearful, more apt to try to pacify than fight back.

E was completely the opposite. From the get-go, it was apparent that he was different. Strong in yang energy, totally unable to be compliant, and as it turned out later, also spirit-polar and preferring mental and body activities to emotional stuff. Having his loud energy in the house was hard for all of us.   He threatened the precarious safety we had learned to create.  I knew how to soothe the dragon, anticipate the rage and divert it a little. Whatever the dragon wanted, I would try to give. But E could never do that.  He fought and resisted, no matter what anybody wanted him to do, he would go the other way.  Trying to get his shoes on, he fought, yelled, tried to run away and sometimes succeeded.  These battles for control were a constant.  The simplest things were a fight. 

In those days, before mom learned about crying, she was always a blazing inferno of yangish rage threatening to erupt.  She had so much rage bottled up from her own childhood and beyond. And it seemed to me that E was purposely provoking the dragon. As if he was asking for her to rage at him.  They butted heads constantly, and furiously.

It's a testament to E's force of life that he was able to create such turmoil at such a young age.  By the age of three, he ruled the house.  Mom's response was physical.  Spankings that escalated from hand to wooden spoon to spatula.  Rage that grew out of control and leaked out to K and me also, and we began to hate E for causing this volcanic eruption.  We blamed him for it.

So many things we didn't understand. 

I've come to be grateful, and I've come to understand how things happened, and had to happen, but at that time, I only knew that a demon child lived in our house that constantly provoked the angry-giant-dragon-witch that was our mother.

Mom used to tell this story at every workshop she gave, how E was the catalyst for her finding the Path of Tears, how it was her love for him that sparked the changes that took place. 

She told how one day, after an hour of fighting with E to get him dressed, after the screaming and wrestling, exhausted and angry from trying to get a t-shirt on a wriggling, fighting, biting 3-year old, she was at the end of her rope.  Her rage now erupted in a bigger way than it ever had before. 

She told how she felt her hand curl into a fist, felt the arm draw back, and realized with a tiny corner of her mind that was still in control that she was about to sock her 3-year old son full-power in the face.  A blow that might have done serious physical injury, maybe even killed him.

She realized she had become the batterer.

She stopped.    Left E sitting there on the steps, ran to the bedroom and slammed the door.  We heard her in there, crying loudly.  Screaming.  Throwing things.  She sobbed and moaned and yelled incoherently.  We thought she was having some kind of fit.  We were terrified.  Even E went quietly to his room. 

She told how, in that hour, she cried to God, demanding an answer.  She was overfilled with pain and remorse and rage that had no outlet, and the only thing she knew at that moment was that she didn't want to become her parents.   She didn't want to become the batterer.   She didn't want to do what had been done to her.  She didn't want the family disease to continue with her.

The next day she went to the library, looking for ... something.  She came home with a small stack of books, one of which was The Human Side of Human Beings by Harvey Jackins.  She said that it had fallen off the shelf onto her head, and it had seemed like maybe God was trying to get her attention. Or answering her prayer. 

I don't think she ever returned that book to the library.

The book was a theory of emotional healing, and there was a group practicing the theory, right in town, so she went to a lecture to find out more.  Then she signed up for a class.  She only went to 2 classes though, because she began crying deeply and heavily and the teacher realized she didn't need classes on re-learning how to cry.   What she needed was one on one sessions. 

Fortunately, that teacher / counselor was Mary, not Harvey.  With mom's history of sexual stuff, she might have been vulnerable to Harvey's patterns.  But fate brought her to Mary. 

Although I never met her, I'll always think of Mary as a mother ... because she was mother to my mother. She saw what was needed, and she met the need. She comforted and nurtured the tears, allowed them to flow, and helped change our lives.

After she had been doing this for a few weeks, mom took us kids aside. She told us what she was doing, or trying to do.  She explained a little of the theory to us, told us that she was trying to get better and less angry, but that meant she would be doing some things that might seem strange.  She told us not to worry if we heard her in her room crying a lot.  She said she didn't want to hit anymore, or be angry at us.  But she had lots of bad stuff in her that needed to come out in ways that wouldn't hurt us.

We didn't understand a word of this, of course, but we nodded our heads and I especially tried to look like I knew what she meant.

This change didn't set well with our step-dad, right from the beginning he must have known that this activity was going to change her forever.   He refused to pay for the counseling. He raged at her. He threatened to leave. But she refused to stop.  Within a month he was gone.

He had been supporting our little family, so mom, in addition to dealing with all this emotional stuff, had to go back to work.  In the sixties, for an uneducated woman, there wasn't much to choose from, but she had supported us before marrying him, and she knew she could do it again.  She found a secretarial job that allowed us to scrape by. Barely.   The fact that he had taken the only car was something of a problem.  She had to take the bus for a while, until she could afford to buy an old clunker of a car.  All these odds stacked against her didn't stop her.  Her commitment to this new healing was the only thing that mattered.  She was like a warrior, putting the blinders on, preparing for battle, a battle of the inner.

She spent that first year of "therapy" learning how to let the rage be triggered, give it physical outlet, and then take it to tears.  It took some time.  E never stopped provoking, and for a while he got worse, almost as if he was trying to get her angry at him.  I understand this pattern now, but back then it seemed perverse, twisted. 

But instead of hitting, she redirected her rage. We joked about her retiring the wooden spoon.  When E provoked her, she left the room, went to the bedroom and pounded stuff.  She would go into the kitchen and pound on the counters with rolls of aluminum foil or Saran Wrap, whatever was handy.  She pounded and cried and pounded and cried.  And when she was done, when she was calm and tired, she would talk to us about it a little, trying to make sure we were ok, that we understood that she wasn't angry at us, that she just needed to get this stuff out of her so she wouldn't be a monster anymore.

THAT, we understood.  She was a big scary figure in our lives, and this was a big change.  So, as scary and strange as the crying was, we waited to see if it would really make the dragon change.

It did. 

The change was so radical, it was like living with a different person, a new mother.  Mom never raised a hand to E again.  And when she got angry at any of us, the first thing she did was go cry.  She became ... lighter.  Happier.  In spite of life's hardships.  She was less flighty, calmer, less volatile, and more loving toward us kids.  I didn't have the words then, but now I would say she was more "present".  Her old pain was less in control, and just the relief of having an outlet for them made a huge difference in her life. 

It's not that she was magically healed of all her childhood hurts. But it was like, for the first time in her life, she had hope. Hope that there WAS a way to feel better, a way to stop the family legacy of violence. She could scoop up her despair, anger, fear, etc, where it was scattered and erupting all over her life, and let it flow into expression, and especially expression that didn't hurt anybody, that she could feel safe allowing.  She didn't have to become her parents, she didn't have to become the batterer.   She had an outlet, a solution, something that really worked.  You could see the relief in her every move.  Everybody noticed it, she was a different person.

This is all in hindsight, of course.  Back then, all we kids knew was that the dragon had miraculously disappeared.

Those early years had left their mark, however. It took me many years to fully trust her. In my early twenties we made a commitment to do serious in-depth re-parenting. We spent 2 years while I was in college, concentrating on healing the early witch-dragon-mother pain. That mother-need and terror is really hard to feel.  It's terrifying letting up the rage and terror of the one person who is your lifeline. I was able to bring forward my earliest childhood terrors of Witch-Mommy, in the presence of the New Mommy, who listened and allowed and apologized and comforted. I learned trust, I learned how trust can be born and given to a person who is still not perfect, who cannot promise never to hurt you again, but who is committed to healing all their backlog. That's real trust, and it's not blind. It's this same trust that I am now able to ask of God. She is the standard by which I judge trustworthiness, and I'll be forever grateful to her for that gift.

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