my sister arrived with all of Mum’s things for the garage sale a couple of hours ago. We erected the tressell tables she ordered and placed out most of Mum’s kitchen ware. There were so many precious things laden with memories of the 80 years of her life and our shared family life, but I found the ground under my feet getting unsteady as we unpacked it all while I teetered on the edge of all of the emotion.
I seem to have a house that is like a museum at the moment, there are bits and pieces everywhere and everything tells a tale of a journey of soul and moments of desire or experience, but at times I worry that the lack of holding from Mum made me more of an acquisitive person on the material level. My Mum and Dad also ran shops for most of my childhood and young adolescent life and we worked rather than relating emotionally.
My sister and I shared while we prepared lunch how we both struggle with boundaries. I was reading an extremely help excerpt today from therapist Anne Katherine’s, book Where To Draw The Line on boundaries and boundary violations today. Apparently when a parent hits or hurts you physically that is a boundary violation, and if you were not allowed to get upset, that is an emotional boundary violation. Furthermore if a parent hurts you while the other person stands by and does nothing “the child is (left) abruptly alone in the world. From then on the relationship with both parents is altered.” Wow!!! That was our childhood. We would then be sent to our room for getting upset leaving us alone with feelings too large and confusing for a young child to struggle with and the result can be rage that gets buried deep inside along with massive anxiety over being and expressing in the world.
I also came across a letter from my first therapist, Wendy yesterday unpacking some old journals in which she replied to some of my queries about anger. In AA I had been told anger was ‘bad’ : one of the seven deadly sins. I asked Wendy about this and this is what she explained to me :
“I feel we have to make a distinction between absolute rage and anger. When AA talk about not having anger, I feel it is because this is more the rage which can leave you so open. The aim is to help develop a ‘muscle’ to say no, as I see it, and to protect yourself. However, anger itself is necessary – how else can we know when something feels wrong or transgresses our boundaries and how can we have the courage to stand up for ethical issues? I see it like a fire. If the flames burn too strongly and out of control it can be dangerous – drawing everything into itself destructively. However, when dampened down it gives warmth and light and can be cleansing.”
In the chapter on anger boundaries Katherine speaks of how we need to speak about our anger in a functional way to be free of it. If we can feel it and know what it is about and communicate that, we will be free of anger even if we are not respected or heard, we then know the person does not respect our boundaries or feelings and can take appropriate action. Anger felt cleanly leads to emotional release and there is a lot of repressed emotional charge for any of us who suffered traumatic violations in which movement of free assertive energy was repressed. This is some thing Peter Levine deals with in his book on resolving trauma and I have a post I am writing sharing some of his insights in the process of compilation.
I also feel that when I am with my sis we both float in a field of shared family feelings, so today when she was running around with the organising I was feeling all of these past feelings associated with the stuff of Mum’s we have shared memories of. It was actually nice as we had some lunch outside after we sorted a lot of things onto the tables for the garage sale and spoke more about things from the past, sharing memories of my brother’s wedding. Yesterday in therapy I cried with Kat saying this “I almost drowned in my family.” Kat just gave me that knowing therapist look and said “Yes Deborah, I really feel you almost did, but you are coming through and made such forward progress holding on so well during your trip to the coast.” I really hope I am coming through cause on days like today when I get flooded or scrambled it scares me that I hold to much of the feeling, and that it might kill me if I cannot be free. As the youngest child in sibling structure I hold the frustrated hopes for longed for emotional reconnection in the family, that is something I realised yesterday but who knows maybe if I can speak about emotions and find my words and way through feeling through and attuning inwardly I will remain cohesive.
Wendy also said this in her letter to me of May 2004 :
Individuation is not a process where you get there and that’s it. It goes on throughout life. What is important is that you feel together enough internally to meet whatever comes your way with an open creativity. I feel this is happening with some deep dives along the way.”
Yes, when I wrote to her Jonathan had not yet decided to leave me. I had fallen into a deep depression but somehow managed to come through, just as I am coming through now. Even though on some days I feel scrambled, in time I find my way back to myself and most certainly the things that help are writing, alone time and reflection as well as reaching out to understand more about complex emotional dynamics and express, time to be within my own circle of containment and feel my way back to the deep heart and soul of myself with empathy for my families struggle with emotions too.