January 20, 2013
What in the world are we talking about?
What does it mean to us and for the quality of our life when we are deprived – because we were deprived from the start of our life – of the ability to “safely” regulate our emotions? We are most certainly not born with this ability. It comes with the growth, development and advancement of our body.
When we were tiniest, when we were born, we could do very little of anything by ourselves. We could breath. We could swallow. We could do what a newborn mammal can do. But given the complexity of being human we were meant for so much more. But without being given what we needed to move toward our potential for advancement, we suffered then and will suffer in ways invisible to our comprehension for the rest of our life.
Time passes by. We stay alive. We appear to have made it through all of the common developmental milestones. We grow and grow as we pass one milestone after another until we’re all grown up.
Here we are in adulthood. We’ve made it! Nobody ever tells us what we might have missed out on during our development. Nobody tells us what mattered most. Nobody told us what shortages of inner supplies plagued us from the beginning of our lives – and thus – always will.
If anything goes wrong as we make it through our life we are told that we’re to blame. We are expected to be autonomous. We are expected to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-motivated, self-contained. If we need something, go get it. If we want something, go get it. If we fall flat on the ground with our face in the dust, it’s our own fault. Pick yourself up. Don’t expect anyone to be there to help you. Don’t expect anyone to care. You are on your own.
Don’t you dare complain, either. Don’t look around you and notice that there seems to be some kind of invisible inner difference between people who seem to fall naturally into the confident, competent and therefore successful category while there are others who seem to never make it ‘there’ no matter how hard they try.
It’s like some people know something we don’t know, have something we don’t have. They seem to live in one kind of world while the rest of us live in a different one. Some people just seem somehow blessed. They “get it” and we don’t. Whatever “it” is, “it” seems vague to us and impossible to understand or define. We move through our life being nagged with a feeling that we missed something somewhere but we don’t know what. There’s a secret ingredient that is absent for some and present for others. We don’t know what that ingredient is and we sure don’t know where to get it.
We don’t even know where to look for what’s different between us and so many others who seem to feel, yes, a different rhythm than we do as they live their lives. If we turn and look within we know there’s a kind of emptiness in us. Somehow we have a hollow space inside our body. Some of us know this. Others have found a way to walk around believing it’s not possible to fill this place of void, so it’s best to find any way possible to ignore that it exists.
Don’t look inward! Look outward! If we’re missing something then, by golly, there must be a way to find it. We believe this because if we didn’t we know there’s a certain time coming when we will fall down and we will not be able to get back up.
What if someone told us that what we are missing, what we have lost, what has been stolen from us lies not inside of us because it was never put there in the first place? How is it possible to go all the way back, back before we could walk or crawl or sit up or even roll over to look for what got left out of the story of our lives? To even try to imagine what happened to us when we were so small seems to make our mind go blank. Blank without words. How can we think? Yet I ask you, “What did you know before you could first think in thoughts about yourself in the world that you have never forgotten and can’t quite remember?”
Sending a part of our self back there from this present moment to that distant past requires only one ability. Simply trust what you know. Don’t read your life in words. Read it in feelings. There is no part of our body that doesn’t remember all it has been through. All the way backwards we remember the sound of the voices of who welcomed us into this world – or did not. We know the feeling of our small self, vulnerable, fragile in the hands of giants. What did they do with us and to us when we needed them most?
We haven’t forgotten. We remember and we know in every fiber of our being if we started from our beginning being loved and feeling completely safe and secure in the world at all times, or if we did not. Our body, if we pay attention to what it can tell us – if we ask and we listen – will never lie to us.
This process of being able to hear what our body tells us might seem to be mysterious because it is so foreign in our culture to believe that which our physical self can tell us about everything else we think we know. We take up space. We move around. We think in noisy thoughts with words. If we find something is wrong we look for solutions. If something is broken we either fix it or throw it away.
After all, being in a body is no different than being tuna in a can or jelly in a jar. It’s what’s inside the container we place the value on. That we ARE our container-body with a self all put together inseparably until the moment of our death has to matter to us. Once it does we will then be able to grow to understand that both how our body grew along with our self cannot be taken apart from one another. Each exists as a whole entity whose patterns of being in the world were set into place long before we knew we had a name.
For those of us who have always known there was something terribly wrong with how we were raised, and for those who listen to the memory that is in their body itself and discover this very same thing, chances are that what happened so long ago has always directly caused difficulties in our lives we have never been able to describe. We can’t expect anyone to appear, either, who will say to us, “Oops! So sorry! Please excuse the mess. We never meant for this to happen. Let me fix this for you.” Nope. Not going to happen.
So what is the point of searching backwards for the missing ingredient in our life if nobody is going to be able to fix now what went wrong for us way back then? How are we supposed to change the past, anyway? Are those who stand on one end of the tug-o-war rope having all they need within them to win the game equal with those on the other end who were born missing out on what they needed most to find a smoother way through life?
As my mother wrote in one of her childhood stories when she was nine, “I don’t think you would like to hear what happened in the cave that night but I will tell you….” Yes. We are equal. We are also very, very different.
Just because we look around and see other people whose containers seem so alike in all the essential ways does not mean if we looked a little deeper we wouldn’t find that in the ways that matter most – as they hold the greatest power to influence how we live a life in this world – we wouldn’t find exactly that same dividing line we already really know exists. There are those of us who were loved and cherished into this world and there are those of us who were not. And between these two groups of people, according to degrees of deprivation from birth, lies the greatest chasm we could imagine.
We either grew a body-brain-self that knew it was safe and secure in this world or we didn’t. It is exactly within this difference between us that we must search for what we have always known and cannot name.
There is one word we can use to begin to explore the differences I am describing. That word is “attachment.”
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