A Mother's Learning
- Under the Watchful Eye of Her Child
This is definitely a subject that's so heavily loaded - most damagingly, I believe, with perceptions of failure within ourselves to be caught up in the drama and pain of an abusive relationship.
Doesn't it feel, especially when we have children who are watching every move we make and forming their blueprint for life from all that they see/hear/bear witness to, like the worst kind of ‘failure’ - to be ‘failing’ our children; those precious, innocent beings whom it is our highest calling to protect and mould into well-balanced, happy adults at a time when we're still a relatively new arrival in the phase of our lives when we perhaps come face to face, more profoundly that at any other, with how f****d up we actually are ie: when we become parents ourselves and all that unexplored (until now!) stuff from our own childhood begins to surface?
Doesn’t that just happen precisely BECAUSE we suddenly see with brand new clarity – like someone just polished years’ worth of accumulated grime off a mirror right before our eyes – how terribly important childhood is (was for us too)?
And then with that dawning recognition, don’t so many women then set off on our own journey of questioning everything; don’t we begin to (re-)feel old, long repressed pains bubbling up, and respond to all of that relived pain with the choices we make as mothers ourselves - for the times we felt, justifiably or not, that we were short-changed / hurt / not seen / inadequately cared for or nurtured / weren’t protected from the traumas of our parents?
Doesn’t knowing that our own kids are perhaps now reaping what was sown in a lifetime before their own, in the form of witnessing up close and personal our own overwhelm and disorientation about things we couldn’t express back then make us feel cheated somehow?
They (our children) see, in a very real way, the damage handed down to us, almost certainly unintentionally, in the minutiae of our own vulnerability: the feelings of lack of control; the confusion at finding ourselves entrenched in the ferociously swirling black hole that is an abusive relationship with barely enough time to catch our breath, let alone process it, understand it, make sense of what we’re learning through the bitterly painful experience; the inability to be able to see, at least for a period of time, a clear path out of it.
Doesn’t that hurt like nothing else ever could?
Doesn’t it just compound the pain we’re already struggling with and push us further into feelings of shame?
So many of us end up damn near crushed emotionally, spiritually (many physically too) before we finally jump ship – traumatised enough to not care any more about the shark infested waters we may be jumping into because at least by taking the leap, there is a new opportunity to swim to freedom where before, there was only a kind of Groundhog day in day out of hopelessness and defeat that we knew would drown us eventually.
In that dark place, we may wonder - how much courage is there in that!?!
It's so hard to know deep in our psyche that some of our most profound life lessons come so often during the time, by nature of the timing of the normal rhythms of life/procreation, well before we've become aware of the work we each still have to do on ourselves.
However, I've come to see it this way:
this IS the work!
It’s the work that comes by default (when we develop the compassion we need FOR OURSELVES to be able to have the sight to see it), through the dawning realisations brought to us - in full technicolour HD - in response to choices we made before we knew what these life lessons were here to teach us.
This is why I feel so much compassion for parents whose children haven’t yet had their own experiences to realise this, so instead rush – encouraged by the lack of awareness ‘out there’ too, and that damned foolish blame culture – to harshly judge their parents for the ‘mistakes’ they made and disallow any opportunity for understanding, repair and growth, when they simply hadn’t yet discovered the resources within themselves to respond with the ability the experiences would equip them with to the consequences of the choices they made before the lessons were learned – if you get what I’m trying to say?
Being thought a victim, and worse, thinking of ourselves this way, only adds to the already intense feelings of worthlessness that go hand in hand with being in relationship with someone who punishes and blames us relentlessly for their own childhood trauma.
Isn't one of the most profound learnings of someone living with a partner who uses abusive behaviour to control and manipulate the discovery of how little one has learned to expect for and of oneself - in a very powerful way?
And isn't the greatest gift in this unsettling discovery the subsequent burst of incredible personal growth it facilitates?
When one realises this, one can’t regret, or hate, or even feel anything less than compassion for the teacher who brought them to themselves, hopefully in time to change the pattern for their own children?
Isn't it heartwarming to hear the testimonies of fellow ‘students’ who graduated from the same university more fully whole - wounded - but stronger than ever.