I have been reflecting a lot today on how not getting what we want may actually provide a doorway into a deeper spiritual journey that not so many of us are keen to go on. This has occurred in response to reading and contemplating a chapter on the shadow of ego in a book by David Richo.
Often our ego can resist loss or not getting what we want in life or from someone else. It bites large for many of us as children may have been denied very real needs for affection, attention, protection, understanding, empathy and mirroring. The result is that we go out into life with a huge backlog of emotional deficits which we take into new relationships. And not knowing what happened to us in a very real sense all of those years ago we carry longing and wounds which it may take a lot of time and understanding and awareness to work through. Our emotional lack around others emotional unavailability tends to keep us locked into certain patterns which we often repeat leading to more pain or suffering.
We may also learn to become something or someone else in order to get needs met, but often not in a fully conscious way. Disappointment of our ego aims and objectives and frustration leads us to a necessary suffering that contains hidden deep within it earlier emotional work and realisations that we have to face and this dis-appointment of our ego leads us back home to the deeper wound within which so sorely needs our love and attention.
In this chapter Richo discusses how the hurt ego can lash out at others. We want to blame them for not giving us what we want and need, we want to punish them, we may want to label the person, perhaps calling them a narcissist. We don’t fully see the shadow side of ourselves that is behind this approach. We may find it hard to let go of the difficult relationship which brought us so much suffering without a painful drawn out moratorium on what he/she said/did/didn’t do/should have done. The reason we do this is we don’t fully want to face our own deep grief and powerlessness. This grief and powerlessness leads us back to an earlier wound or injury that we need to feel and heal within ourselves.
Attacking and blaming and labelling wont help us fully. This does not mean that we don’t have a lot of work to do to see how we are being drawn in and attracted to certain kinds of people who are hurting us, often unconsciously. We need to do this sorting and boundary identifying process but it works best when it comes out of a place of surrender where our hurt and anger is worked with constructively.
Those of you reading who are in 12 step fellowships will recognise that this work with our resentments forms the core part of the programme. How to deal with the painful results not only of not having instincts and needs unmet but also with the damage of the denial, minimising or invalidation of them. In the 12 step programme we talk of handing the person and our pain over to a higher or more compassionate source for often it can be too much for us to cope with alone. We may also need validation of our pain for a time in order that we can heal and know our right to set better boundaries in the future.
I must admit that as I was reading this chapter of Richo’s earlier over my morning coffee I was overcome with tears of sadness. I was thinking of how painful it was yesterday morning to visit my Mum and see the amount of pain she was in and how alone she was. She had recently had two visits to emergency due to infections in her legs and due to the negative impact of the antibiotics on her tummy. I was moved to tears then. I thought of how she could never have given me what she did not get, of how painful that was and still can be at times and of how much I have suffered as a result not being fully conscious and for so many years having carried such deep frustration, and thwarted longing. But I was also aware that my suffering was only one small part of a much larger picture. I was powerless over it and the best way forward was to feel it fully and that I must admit was painful for me all yesterday.
I then had a conversation with someone who years ago triggered my mother wound severely about how her own daughter has suffered at her hands due to her own narcissism and emotional unavailability. Her daughter is often very prickly with her and on a short fuse. My friend feels sad but I don’t know if she has made a full and heartfelt amends. She did the best she could and if you knew how painful her own childhood was and how she has maintained sobriety for over 30 years I feel your heart too would be full of compassion. My friend was not stuck in ego though. She fully owned her deficits with me yesterday. I got a tummy ache after the call, but it put so much into perspective for me.
The wound of being unmothered goes deep. It leaves scars and wounded places. It is those places within us that are most in need of our tenderness, healing and compassion. As Richo points out we are in a better place to express and feel these when we have let go of the ego’s need for retaliation or protective defences which block us from receiving the love we really need here and now. When we have opened to the wound and committed to our healing we are on a deeply spiritual journey to feel and accept into awareness and feeling all the ways in which the mothering we had was deeply flawed. Our wounds need not be a life sentence keeping us permanently trapped in frustration, pain and psychological defence or unnecessary self protection, especially once we learn healthy ego ways of looking out for our own needs. Grief is the answer and through grief, acceptance and a deepening commitment to love and self care both for ourselves and others.