Posts Tagged ‘child’

The presence of betrayal

April 10, 2012

Let’s go into the darkness for a bit.

There are moments of eternal night in my childhood that I carry with me to the present day. I find myself responding to life as if I were still that particular child – still three, four, five, six, seven years of age. I may not always remember the events of any particular dark moment, but I remember the feelings, and my present responses are immediate and involuntary. Experiencing life before I could distinguish my unconscious process from my conscious abilities resulted in a form of programming – a way of responding to life that might have been appropriate in its moment of origination, but does not fit the life I am living now. It is counterproductive to my desires. To fully experience my life as the adult I am now, there is only one thing to do: give it up.

Giving up the programming I received as a child feels like betrayal – betrayal of my family of origin, betrayal of the adults I was dependent upon for survival, betrayal of the child I once was. The child within squirms at the thought that the love and attention she received was not loving at all but programming. She wrestles with the fact that she was raised by people who were not at all connected with themselves, much less with her, and wonders: who betrayed who? Weren’t they supposed to love her and wasn’t everything they did for her own good? At least, that’s what she was told. Loyal to her family, giving up that programming feels like abandonment, but didn’t they go there first? Who will she be once she leaves that story behind? If they truly loved her, why didn’t they love her in a way that supported her, guided her, and nurtured her?

Parents, of course, are the prime targets on this trajectory. They programmed me to believe that their actions and attitudes proved they loved me. As a grownup, I kept wondering why I looked for and found people who treated me much like my parents did and I didn’t enjoy it any more than I had as a child. My introspective work to uncloak that secret finds the child in me realizing that her parents lied to her . . . she was not really loved but rather only used as a tool for them to vent their frustrations and act out their own programming. She was there – wanting, needing, craving to be loved, and for her, any attention was better than no attention. That child in me knew something was wrong but in order to survive, she had to make that something wrong right. My parents in her eyes HAD to be perfect, it HAD to be okay, or else she was lost.

Year after year, I’ve worked very hard to recognize and learn the difference between real love and the love I was programmed to expect. I took my lessons in parenting into my motherhood and programmed my daughters to believe I loved them based on my actions, words, and attitudes. To hold my parents accountable means to hold myself accountable. In my efforts to resolve and let go of what no longer works, I fight the resistance I feel to the betrayal of myself as a parent. Fighting resistance . . . my dichotomous life continues.

Here in the darkness, I am seeking a way to come to resolution with these irrefutable facts. I cannot undo what has been done.

Let’s go into the light.

Because we are ever-evolving beings – becoming more of who we truly are in each moment of experience – there are hundreds of thousands of babies, children, adolescents, young adults, and adults who collectively make up the person known as me in the present. Even if I only count the days of my existence, that number still approaches twenty thousand.

I am a blur of struggles and triumphs. That all of who I have been brought me to this present moment relatively intact is evidence of their strength, their perseverance, their wisdom, their insight, their judgment, and their love of self.

My present is a long luxurious moment of self-exploration, self-investigation, and self-discovery. Within my struggles, conflicts and lonely minutes, I am with an army of selves whose exponential experience births creative and sometimes adventurous comfort and solutions. The totality of me walks into the light to find the thoughts, the activities, and the people who give me love, acceptance, and companionship. I grant myself permission to let go of my condemnation and look upon my past as a troubled road with hidden gifts: resilience, character, wisdom, knowledge, and a spirit who cannot be stopped.

In the light, I find forgiveness.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

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Universal sorrow

July 12, 2010

There is a picture at the Newseum that haunts me. It was taken in the Sudaan. On a dirt road, a small child crouches, head bent touching the earth in a swoon of evident exhaustion. That the child is starving is obvious. Behind the child, a vulture waits expectantly.

The photo was taken back in 1994, but time and distance do not lessen its impact. I am there at the Newseum with my granddaughter who has never lacked for a day without love, caring, tenderness, shelter, food, water, and nurturing. The contrasting truth strikes home in one easy, swift stroke.

It is not so difficult to care for a child.

But it was impossible for an entire country to care for that one child in the photo. If it were an isolated incident, my heart would not be so wounded, except I know it continues.

We all owe that child and every child we let die of starvation, neglect, or abuse our own lives.

I sit here in my self-imposed luxury of American life and wonder why — if we are indeed the co-creators of our existence — why would we allow such misery to proliferate when there is easily a huge abundance of our basic necessities available?

And it is not so hard to love a child.

But even the photographer of that picture walked away, constricted by the rules of the time and society. Perhaps he thought that the picture would speak in a thousand more languages to save thousands more children than had he intervened to try and save one child.

My mind cannot even grasp the karmic platitudes that people use to rationalize starvation and abandonment in a world that supports 7 billion humans.

It is not so impossible to feed a child.

I know that such images, this knowledge, these truths find me as much as I find them. And I feel the sorrow of the universal consciousness as it nudges me and urges me to do something.

But I don’t know what.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

remembering presence

July 6, 2010

Memory is a particularly peculiar human trait. While we are all born with an instinctive memory that prompts us to let others know when we are hungry or cold (or even just lonely), we have to learn everything else – even how to be human. Learning to be human is a lifelong process, not one that ends at whatever arbitrary age of emancipation our laws might choose.

What we remember and what we forget also shapes our humanness. We have our short-term memories and our long-term memories. A lot of what we choose to remember depends upon how much and how often we are going to need that knowledge. We also choose to remember significant events in our lives . . . significant being self-defined not event-defined. Some of the events I remember from my childhood “didn’t happen that way” according to my parents and siblings. Well, they didn’t happen to them that way, but they happened to me that way. If I want to change how I remember a particular event, only now as an adult am I able to look back and take a different perspective.

I have also forgotten many, many events from my childhood and adolescence largely because I choose not to focus on them. What is the most difficult for me to forget is my way of being in the world. I learned to be human in a dysfunctional family that was only a microcosm example of the larger dysfunctional world. It is how I learned to survive and giving up any survival mechanism threatens my safety at a primordial level. Yes, I believe at some deeper level of my being that if I change, I will die.

I think a lot of people have this belief and are just unaware of it, but I cannot speak for them. I can only speak to how I work to change this belief each time it surfaces in my life. As any forgotten memory that has been living in my subconscious rises to the surface level of consciousness and becomes remembered, I have to note if that memory is associated with my current way of being in the world. That I have released the memory from my place of forgotten events means my higher presence, my eternal presence, knows that I am ready to deal with that way of being in the world. The memory serves as a sentinel pointing to a seminal event that could be inclusive of every other event where I made a decision of that particular way of being in the world.

At that point, I can take the event outside of me, place it on the movie screen, and get a little distance. I can watch me as a child go through the event and my decision-making process. I can ask me what I needed then and, as an adult, I can give my inner child now what she could not get then. I respect her so much for the decisions she made to keep us alive and secure until we reached adulthood and could take care of ourselves.

Then I invite her to come join and be with all that I am and let me the adult take care of us. The child who I was then integrates with the whole of me and suddenly there is a space for a new way of being in the world. How I am going to be in that new space comes from a greater whole me.

I do not forget the event but now it no longer has as much power over my way of being in the world. Forgetting has served its purpose and now I can safely remember and acknowledge events without reliving my life, without feeling now what I felt then.

As I move into my new way of being in the world, I still bring with me that wealth of experience, and experience is not something we forget.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

outside presence

July 4, 2010

This presence is not about being outdoors. My outside presence is the presence who can watch me living, responding, feeling, and acting as if I were watching me on a movie screen. Unlike the movies, though, I am still connected while observing how I am being in the world. There is no disconnect involved . . . only distance.

I learned how to do this many years ago as a guided meditation to help resolve old childhood traumas. It is an excellent method because it keeps me from reliving the drama and recreating the same old emotions. And, because I am a compassionate observer (compassion totally rules this process), it is a safe place to give my child now what she could not get back then.

Lately, I have been working to bring this process into my adulthood on a more regular basis. I am acutely aware of how my thinking process contributes so much to my emotional way of being . . . many times the thought seems instantaneous with the emotional outbreak and I miss it. All emotions are okay to experience, but I ask myself this question: is my emotional response appropriate to the circumstances given everything I know? I especially take note of my reactions when another person has done something that causes me distress.

Since I am on a quest to feel good as often as possible and other people sometimes seem to be on a quest to thwart those efforts, I have to look at the distress signals carefully. They are appropriate to times when I might be in danger, when someone might cause me harm, and when someone is not being honest with me or trying to get me to be someone for them that is not good for me. These also include times when I might be expecting others to be who I think they should be. Signals of distress are anxiety, fear, anger, impatience, resentment, and any other emotion that makes me uncomfortable and gets that hot fire burning at the top of my skull.

With the exception of immediate physical harm, when I am in distress, I have to look at how I have constructed the thoughts in my head and examine whether or not I have talked myself into being distressed. We have all been taught in our childhood to feel a certain way when certain things happen. For example, my parents taught me that I should feel unworthy and stupid when I brought home anything less than an “A” on my report card. As I experience grade anxiety in my classes at Loyola, I have to sit down with myself and give me compassion, understanding, love, and acceptance should I choose to make a “B” in a class. I am allowing myself to enjoy the experience, knowing full well that I can make an “A” should I choose to do so.

I can’t hold onto the resentment towards my parents. That is nonproductive and simply reproduces the helplessness I felt when I was a child. I am experimenting with Laurie Buchanan’s recommendation of Emotional Freedom Techniques to help free myself.

While I know I exist eternally, I believe I am here to finish with many issues including the emotional issues that block me from living as my true presence. This human existence is far too short to waste time reliving the past and carrying this emotional baggage around weighs me down. When I leave this body, I want to leave as lightly as possible.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Finishing presence

April 30, 2010

Finishing presence feels somewhat like I imagine forgiveness feels like: the circumstances, the person, the situation, or the event no longer stirs evocative emotions in me. I feel neither this way nor that way. I am finished.

I struggle with the word “forgive” because it implies that someone or something has wronged me in some way. As a child, I was taught that the concept of “forgiveness” meant people could do anything they wanted and as long as they were sorry, God would forgive them. It did not necessarily mean that the person had to stop that behavior.

As an adult, I have to grow into a new concept and definition of forgiveness. Finishing is as close as I can get right now. To let myself off of the hook and quit feeling bad over life long past, I need to be finished and let it go. It does not mean I forget. Finishing means I remember from a new perspective.

From this distance, I can look at events that occurred in my childhood and know that I felt bad. I can even recreate the bad feelings over something that might have happened forty years ago. I am still that child feeling awful about something someone else did. I might even feel bad over something that I did. I am not finished. To be finished requires some creative work. A mindful meditative journey with that child works well for me. From my adult perspective, I can point out and create new stories about the event. As I tell myself (the child) several different stories about the event, why it occurred, what was going on with me and other people, I come to realize that I feel bad because I’ve attached meaning to the event. The meaning almost always is some derivative that I did something wrong, that I was a bad person, that I should have done something else, I should have known better, I should have (fill in the blank). I continue to suffer because I want life to be different than what it was or how it is right now.

This internal work moves at its own pace. The child in me signals readiness when the memory surfaces and I become that child again, feeling bad over things long past. My eternal presence urges me to let it go . . . not to forget the incident, but rather, to let go of carrying the emotional weight. If I stay present, being with the child in the moment, life will bring me all sorts of ways to let go: reading a sentence, drawing a picture, writing a memoir, a physical movement, witnessing life unfolding. It does not matter. There is not any one specific way except for me to trust myself, know that I am eternal, and make the choice to live joyfully.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass