One of the effects of a low nurturance upbringing is that we do not learn to rest. It is difficult to feel comfortable in your own skin and relax too if the environment you grew up in had a lot of trauma and conflict, was always busy, with people around you who were disconnected emotionally.
In my home growing up we did not have much time to relax. We needed to be busy with chores. Both my parents worked by the time I was a toddler, as a school age child I would often come home to an empty home where I had to occupy myself. I remember turning to chocolate biscuits, popcorn, pancakes and TV all in an effort to nurture myself and put some comfort around me.
By the age of 14 I was longing for a dog. By that time my closest sister (8 years older) had left home and I was very, very lonely. It took ages to convince my parents that the dog was a good idea. In the end Sasha, a beautiful beagle ended up getting injured as no one was at home during the day to care for her. We had to give her away.
When I decided to get my own dog a few years ago after I had returned to my home town after the breakup of my last painful relationship it took at least 6 months to commit to the decision. I had a lot of fear about having a being depend on me. I must say I have got through most of my life having no one much to turn to, having to depend only on me. I did not want this for any dog I brought into my home. I wanted to have a lot of time to spend with him and it was only because I was not working that I decided to get Jasper just over 3 years ago.
Jasper had several states of being that he enjoys. Cheeky play time where he convinces other dogs to engage in a game of chasings, enthusiastic joy de vivre of seeing people come to visit home and at the dog park, slow down time where he likes to sleep, rest and relax with tummy in full contact with the floor head resting between his paws, watching time where he just sits and observes what is going on in the world.
Just a moment I go as he was sinking into sleep a few feet away from me I moved the stool at my feet suddenly and his head jerked up suddenly and there was a distressed bark. I was made conscious that he had been disrupted out of a state of relaxation my a sudden move I made and he looked quite distressed. At this point I looked deeply at him, his soft brown eyes held my eyes and I saw myself as a child disrupted from a time of peace by a jerky, busy thing in the environment (most often my mother) who is a compulsive tidier.
Part of having a pet and most especially a dependent dog is that we can and do replay a lot of our history with them. We can also project onto them. I have learned a lot about my own childhood from the way I have treated Jasper and at times the rage he has brought out of me when has done something “naughty” which is not really naughty but just normal puppy behaviour has shown me that there is a deep, horrible wound in me from childhood which comes from getting in trouble for “having made a mess” when really I was just being a child.
One incident I remember from childhood took place when we were on a caravaning holiday. I sat drawing at the kitchen table and my mother as usual was frantically cleaning the floors with boiling water. I put my foot down into the bucket of boiling water she had left near the bottom of the table and got third degree burns. This was just one incident of injury.
This morning I was out in the garden busily tidying up leaves that had fallen through gravel. I was aware of so many things that I have been working on in therapy and in my body work sessions, my strong sense of hyper-vigilance, my push pull battle with attending social events and engaging in relationships, my mother’s deep childhood loneliness where she longed for relationships but met only solitude and silence and was forced by her own mother to clean and clean and clean. I started to feel so deeply sad. I had the thought “I am still living out my Mum’s unconscious wound.”
As synchronicity would have it, as I came in from the garden (after I realised I needed to set a boundary with my busyness and just relax) I heard my mobile phone vibrate. I looked down to see the words : “Mum mobile”.
My Mum sounded so, so tired. As usual she told me all about her day without even thinking to ask about mine until the end. During the call I started feeling so very, very sad and was actually crying. I was aware of so much in the silence.
“I’m feeling very tired today”, Mum said. “I just need to relax.” Even writing this I am so very, very sad. I know my mother has tried, she never knew how to nurture, how to relax, how to just “be”. From such a young age she had to fight for everything and do it alone, without support, without help until she met my father. But even then they could not relax. There was a War, Dad was stationed over in the Dutch East Indies. After my sister and brother were born Mum went over there to meet Dad in a country fraught with peril and danger during its bloody fight for independence from the Dutch.
After Dad had finished his repatriation work (flying POW’s out of Indonesia), they moved home to Australia. With no money they lived with Nana and Poppa until they could afford their first government assisted home. A second home came after they worked and worked in businesses to survive and by then Dad was pursuing some crazy plan of becoming a millionaire. At age 7 we moved to an unbuilt home when the builder (an alcoholic) went bankrupt. It was harsh and hard environment (no floor coverings, no heating during an extremely harsh winter). There was no place of softness and rest.
I slept on a stretcher bed at the base of Mum and Dad’s bed reading Mary Poppins and longing to be taken away by MP to happy adventures. When I told this to Mum recently she said to me “So was I!”
I was alone with Mum and Dad there (my sister was sent down to the comfort of Nana’s little house). A few years later that was the place of all the tragedy, my car accident, my eldest sister’s cerebral bleed, her psychotic break and suicide attempt and a few years later my father’s illness with cancer and death, after which I was flung out overseas to no home, to many moves, many desperate attempts at connection, back home again a few years later no place to come home to my mother had remarried and I was not wanted. Flung out to Sydney to a job I did not like or choose just as I could not choose my own career or education as that was chosen for me by my Dad.
My addictive nature fully sealed so I ran on for a few more years until sobriety and marriage… a relative time of peace before another move overseas. Running, running, running not able to relax. That broke apart as the unconscious history pushed up from the depths of me trying to become conscious.
As I view the entire journey now (which I have abbreviated for the sake of the blog) I see how hard it has been for me to rest, to trust, to relax. It seemed that the only way to survive was to push on and to keep on running, with a deep back log of feeling I could not quite slow down enough to feel.
It is really only in the past few days that I have began to feel this pattern changing. I have shed so many tears over the past 15 years. So many tears that at one point I felt I would drown in my own phlegm which accompanied the grieving. Only in the past few days have I been able to allow myself to slow. To make a conscious choice of how active or passive I will be. It must be a good sign that, at least on some level, my trauma is integrating. I am able to pull back from situations that don’t feel so good for me and make the choice to sit quietly and self nurture, read a recovery book, cuddle Jasper.
Part of the legacy of trauma has been for me, being too driven, not recognising limits, feelings so overwhelmed and over burdened that it felt impossible to stop, so filled with unresolved longing, pain and need that I felt I had to say yes to anything. I know now I do not. That I have the power to choose.
In my body work session last Wednesday I had this powerful realisation in the midst of grieving some powerful losses. A voice inside me said “You had better not want or need anything, it will only be taken from you”. These few words made sense of me of why I have felt the need to withdraw, to self protect when a times it would be healthier to engage and good things were being offered to me, most especially in 2001 during my first therapy and attempt to break away.
It is clear to me now that the cost of needing and loving again felt too much. If it would all be eventually taken from me, why even try? Needless to say this was a powerful realisation to have, one that I must sit with.
Today as I sit here and relax, as I inwardly centre myself and listen for the still clear voice of my soul I am made aware the both personally and collectively some pattern is trying to change and at the same time I am being urged to see deeper. I am aware of Mercury’s slow retrograde movement journey back to meet Pluto, lord of deep truths hidden in the unconscious or underworld of fate’s complex woven tapestry still in the process of unravelling and ravelling both in my life and in the lives of those around me.
Awareness will grow if I can be still enough to meet myself within the silence within all the feelings and images of the past which arise to be seen, held, acknowledged, integrated, known. For it is clear to me that I am on a long journey whose course is still unfolding, whose destination cannot be known. It is in surrendering to the journey, in becoming willing to fully face the past that I will find the ability to move forward and when I do I will take my True Self with me, Inner Child, Inner Mother, Inner Father too, all my ancestors who were the cells out of which my cells grew and evolved seeking a new shape, a new form of expression in this world.
Post Script. After posting this I had the following insight. My journey has been a Mercury retrograde journey. Not a journey outward, for all outward things in being taken led me deep within. Mine has been a journey outward that in seeming to ‘fail’ led me home, which homecoming sent me backwards and down for the purpose of re-membering, pulling the scattered fragments of trauma back together and assembling them into a new pattern.
A quote from T.S. Elliot comes to me.
The end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we have started
and to know that place for the first time.