Rising Above the Christmas Tide
A repost of the original blog… dated November 25, 2014
In the lead up to Christmas it can be quite challenging to maintain an inner resolve to keep rising above the pull of temptation to engage in the cesspool of unproductive behaviours within families that don’t work. Throughout our upbringing we marinate in a unique brand of family culture, with little or no awareness that all families are not the same. For the most part, family behaviours are cultivated behind closed doors, with vastly different expectations for public viewing, all of which a child will deem as normal, because that’s all they know. When I was fifteen, I remember my father saying one morning, ‘Don’t you ever tell anybody what goes on inside this house’. It alarmed me that something was obviously going on in our house that was not going on in others. I had no idea at the time that the regular minimising of needs, dismissal of feelings, the threats, punishment, yelling, screaming and all manner of emotional and physical violence, were not a part of everyone’s family. My father sparked an inquiry within me and I went to school and talked to a couple of friends about what goes on in our house. I learned a few eye-opening truths that scared me. By morning recess I was wracked with fear that my Dad would find out I’d broken a family-code and I would be in big trouble. In a moment of panic, needing to undo what I’d done, I realised it was April Fools Day and told my friends it was a joke. They obviously didn’t believe me and reported their concerns to the student counsellor. When I was called up to the office I was petrified that I would be in trouble at school and at home, yet to my surprise the counsellor wanted to offer me support. The patterns laid down in childhood are so deeply embedded into our sense of belonging and worthiness and it is upon this path that we secure our place in the world. Though challenging at the time, I am grateful for those friends whose home life was different to mine and their willingness to take action.
Unless challenged, our family of origin will hand down the parenting style they received, and when that parenting style is steeped in blame, shame and guilt, then generation after generation of young people learn to identify themselves with family-norms of worthless-ness that are often silent in nature, yet send a very loud message of what’s expected from them and what to expect from the world. And the building of armour begins.
One of the great anomalies of securing a platform of self-care is the challenge it presents to those who have not yet learned the art of self-love and affection. Those who continue to see life through a filter of complaint and accusation can become dependent on external acknowledgment and gratification, while projecting their unexpressed anger and frustration onto those closest to them, which erodes precious self esteem and damages the finer perspective on life. The impulse to drag others down into a pit of despair comes hand in hand with a lack of inner resources and permission to speak our truth.
Peeling away the many layers of self-doubt, shame and defeat that build up over many years on the family battle-field, is not for the fainthearted. To witness those we love look at us with disdain because we have chosen to step out of the firing line, can be misunderstood and cause even more disruption and heartache. To know that our love for others is questioned because we stop playing the game, can be confusing, daunting and isolating.
It is indeed heroic to step off the pathways that have been forged for us and step up to facing the constraints of the past. It takes dedication, fortitude and strength to create a different pathway for our children and their children. By chipping away at the layers that lie between our conditioning and the truth of who we are, we eventually reach a place of self-actualisation, akin to a graduation from our own apprenticeship, where we give ourselves permission to be the leader of our own life, as opposed to waiting for it to come from somewhere else. The graduation ceremony often aligns with a personal milestone where our values line up and become the pathway on which we walk forever more.
I am thankful that I chose to step out of the vicious cycle of disempowerment and set a premise that works for me. I accept that each person has the right to choose their own path and be accountable for it. I no longer tolerate bad behaviour and as I celebrate and rejoice living my life on purpose, I continue to unravel and respond to all the beauty, joy and challenges that life has to offer.
One of the challenges humanity is faced with now is to truly love ourselves. While trapped in the complexities of the past, I was unable to give myself permission to tend to my own needs, and now that I know better, I do better. As the great Bob Dylan said, ‘the times, they are a changin’.
© Patricia Herreen