I came across the most wonderful book on a second hand bookshelf in Glastonbury nine years ago that was just meant for me. This kind of thing happens to me a lot. I will get an intuitive message telling me to go to a certain place and often, there will be a book there that I need to read.
The Gift of Our Compulsions : A Revolutionary Approach to Self Acceptance and Healing by Mary O’Malley has been an in invaluable resource for healing in my own recovery. Together with the work of Inner Bonding by Margaret Paul it has helped me to understand a core principle of recovery from co-dependence and addiction, that what we are most hungry for and what can lie at the heart of our co-dependence and addictions is a hunger to hear our own silent voice, to listen to for our own unique heart beat and understand our own deepest feelings.
It appears to me that one of the most damaging aspects of our society and the way in which our education and socialisation can fail us most miserably is in teaching us to despise ourselves and teach us that our power, truth and peace lie somewhere outside of us, instead of deep inside. It occurs to me that just the simple fact of being present to ourselves and to others is one of the most important healing principles in in the universe.
Unfortunately I attended a catholic school, in childhood and adolescence. In this education I was taught and witnessed others being taught that who they were was not good, but evil. We came to believe that we were born with original sin and could only become acceptable by opening up about our sinful needs and impulses, (about which we were meant to be very ashamed) and renouncing them. Was it any wonder that by early adolescence, a large part of my year was out of control with alcohol and drawn towards all kinds of experimentation with drugs and sex, all the things that, due to being judged as bad, become incredibly attractive and filled with a positive magnetic charge?
Last night I watched a very tragic documentary on Australian Television on the way the church has, not only protected its priests who for years were known to be abusers, but actively engaged in practices to deny and discredit the abused. One family lost a daughter to suicide as a result, while the other daughter, under the influence of alcohol was hit by a car and now needs permanent care. I got really angry during the programme at the bullshit the church as spun and the way it has lied to us with its projections of a dark and fearful heart onto people who are innocent.
In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, psychotherapist Clarissa Pinkola Estes draws attention to the life of Janis Joplin and shows how her hunger for expression that led down a dark path of hunger for drugs grew out of a repressive Methodist background in which the young Janis developed into someone with a deep soul starvation which led her down some dangerous and destructive pathways.
PInkola Estes writes:
Psychically, we become used to shocks aimed at our wild nature. We adapt to violence against the psyche’s wild and knowing nature. We try to be good while normalising the abnormal. As a result we loose our power to flee. We loose our power to lobby for the elements of soul we find most valuable. .. When one group talks about how wrong the wild is, and other groups argues that the wild has been wronged, something is drastically wrong. In the instinctive psyche, the Wild Woman looks out on the forest and sees a home for herself and all humans. Yet others may look at the same forest and imagine it barren of trees and their pockets bursting with money. .. when women do not speak, when not enough people speak, the voice of the Wild Woman becomes silent and therefore the world becomes silent of the natural and wild too.
Seeing the frozenness in images of some of the sufferers last night, how I longed to hear them scream against what had happened. It seems at times that we are not encouraged to give voice to the wounds we have suffered, in some way it is seen as lacking in dignity to cry out and give a true strong voice to the suffering inflicted on our wild, authentic selves.
This morning I read the following in my book of Daily Meditations
. Wounds to the Self
There are parts of me held in silence that long to speak, places within me that want to be felt and understood. Though my sorrows may make me feel like I am falling apart, I know I will not. I am capable of tolerating emotional pain and coming out the other end with a deeper connection to my authentic self. I am capable of tolerating my own rage and helplessness…….. I trust in myself and a power greater than me to hold me through the pain. .. I can survive my own feelings…..The yearning inside of me for what I may have lost, or for what never got a chance to happen, is a natural part of the grief process. I am willing to feel it and get past it. If I shut it down, minimize it, or re-write it into some cover-up story, I am only hurting myself in the long run. I can tolerate the strength of my own pain. Tian Dayton
There is life on the other side of this pain and I do feel the greater pain we suffer comes from never getting to make friends with our insides in the first place. The anger that we suffer as a result of very real injuries to the self, such as the abused suffered at the hands of those priests, can and do turn in against the sufferer or victim, most especially in the light of being denied. Sadly it takes permission that is lacking a lot of the time to turn this in rage to out rage.
Anger gets a fairly bad wrap at times but as Mars continues on its transit through the power sign of Scorpio over the next month or I think it is important to realise the power of legitimate anger and other deeply Plutonian feelings, to our authentic selves. Finding appropriate channels for expression is so important.
I can certainly relate to the lonely hunger for my own self connection and understanding of my deep feelings that lay at the heart of my own addiction. I was grateful to the rooms of AA for showing me that my addiction could indeed be overcome to the extent that I was willing to admit to it, however in those rooms, I must say I did not find the deep emotional connection to myself that I feel was such an essential part of my own healing and recovery. I had to look outside and reading Pinkola Estes stories and understanding their relevance to my life and journey certainly helped. Just as Mary O’Malley’s book is helping me now. The truth was that it was not defects of character that drove my addiction, it was in fact, a hunger for the healing light of my own self love, understanding and compassion that I was longing for.
It seems to me that our world can be, at times, a fairly hostile place, run on rules of judgement and measuring up that don’t seem to help us relate to and accept ourselves as we are. Self rejection and self criticism were indeed core aspects of myself that have taken me many years to understand and come to terms with.
One of the reasons that Mary O’Malley’s book was so important to me, was that it gave me tools to work with being present to myself, to focus on understanding and coming to an acceptance of both dark and light sides of myself.
The central ideas of her book are: Cultivating Curiosity, Loving Ourselves from the Inside out, Opening to the Breath, Coming Home to Ourselves, and Treasure Hunting, a deep process of being able to be present with and pay attention to what is happening inside us in order to mine our inner world for treasure.. deeper insights into what is calling out deep within us for attention.
This is rich deep work which, to me, is ultimately so satisfying, bringing to me a sense of wholeness and completeness I never found in outside substances, place, people or things.
In the end, what I was most lonely for was for my own open heart. Its been a long journey to realise that. But despite all the pain it has been worth it, To now be able rest in this open heart and feel nourished and complete is a priceless gift beyond measure..