Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

By Carol Tandava

But no matter how much we have learned to suppress, control and deny our expression, rest assured: Each of us has a full complement of these “shunted off ” pieces of unprocessed emotional experience, which can emerge, indeed forcefully erupt, when triggered by experiences that resemble or resonate with the initial experience. And then watch out!

Very often, when these unprocessed complexes emerge, they overtake the psyche and leave one feeling quite helpless. Worse, the complex is in whatever level of maturity the psyche was in at the time it was created. Have you ever wondered why an otherwise rational, mature, even impressive adult can suddenly become a squalling 5-year-old if, for example, someone cuts in front of them in line? Well, an unprocessed complex is the reason.

Now, as awful and humiliating as it can be to be held in the throes of a complex, we can still be good parents to ourselves and give ourselves the containment that had not been available in our formative years.

Here is my prescription:

If something happens that drives you looney, for whatever reason — and do not judge, try to rationalize, justify, or even figure out the reason — just let it out.  Try, of course, to create a safe space for this. If you are in mixed company, or in a situation where expression could cause undue damage, try to keep the feeling in stasis until you can seclude yourself. But once you are safe, just let it rip.

And when I say rip, I mean RIP.

Wail, scream, cry, punch a pillow (I am a big fan of pillow-bashing) — but most of all trust that as bad as the pain may be, and as ridiculous as you may feel in letting yourself revert to your two-year-old self, if you let it do its thing, you will emerge safely on the other side.

I liken it to the way a pilot brings a plane out of a stall.

When a plane goes into a stall, it starts to nose-down and the pilot loses control. You would think that bringing the nose up would be the right thing to do; but it isn’t. As aviation legend Lincoln Beachy learned, if you push the nose down into the stall, your wings will gather enough lift to recover.

And so it is with the complex-driven tantrum: If you dive straight into it, look squarely into the eye of whatever has got you by the short-and-curlies, and bawl/scream/grieve your face off — in essence, if you let yourself die a little — you will get through it, and you will grow.

So, how do you know that the tantrum did the trick? Usually, I find that whatever had triggered the episode will not bother me as much — or at all.

A good example of this happened in my mid-20s.

I had quit my job to pursue theater as my parents had agreed to let me move back in with them for a few years. One night I came home very late from a show and found my mother had done something that upset me terribly. I don’t recall what it was, but whatever it was triggered something HUGE in me. (As Paul Reiser quips: “Want to know why your parents are so good at pushing your buttons? It’s because they installed them!”)

I wanted to go absolutely ballistic at her, but she was sleeping — and I knew enough by that point to realize that beating up on another person, even the person whom I held responsible for the injury, would resolve nothing.

So I took a moment, stuffed my face in a pillow (so as not to wake anyone) and screamed and cried. My body wrenched and writhed and I found myself biting the pillow… there was something about biting that was important here. Well, I didn’t want to destroy the pillow, so I grabbed the next best thing: a 2-week-old copy of the NY Times Magazine — something no one would miss.

And I shredded it with my teeth!


Yes, I really did that.

There I was… a mature, sensible 25-year-old, ripping, gnashing, tearing saliva-soaked pages with bestial fury. Tears poured down my face as I crumpled fistsfuls of slick tooth-made confetti, mashing them into the living room rug.  A long breath shuddered into me; I gurgled out a few more sobs … until the sobs turned into laughs. And I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was I was so upset about.

My mind was completely blank for what seemed like several minutes. I had to reach around, fumbling through my thoughts as I was at that moment fumbling through the confetti, trying to clean up the mess. And when I finally remembered what had moments before been my mother’s terrible-horrible-unforgivable act … I laughed again. “That is what upset me?? Damn….”

And the storm was over. I scooped up the mess, chuckling to myself … how silly, small things can loom so large when powered by the grief of a tormented inner-child. Having been given her due, the child was calm, contained, cared for and happy. And my mothers momentous offense had returned to life-size.

It was some oversight … knowing her, she probably meant to do well by me in doing what she did, but guessed wrong as so many parents do. But I can’t say for sure.

Within moments, it was forgotten — processed and integrated — to this day, I can’t tell you what it was.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

By Carol Tandava 

…continued from yesterday’s post…

I read once that any emotion, fully and honestly experienced, will always return to love (i.e. positive emotion). So if something upsets me, I can usually find something in myself — some belief I have about the world, myself, etc. that says, “You will never be happy/have what you want/etc. because you are/aren’t/have/don’t have such-and-such…” that is causing me to have the negative emotion.

Now, because these processes operate at psychical levels that are far deeper than intellect or will, simply isolating the limiting belief is not enough. You need some serious force to blast it away — or melt it down.

I particularly like the metaphor of melting — of emotion being an intense heat that helps us reform our psyches to grow into what we need to be, what we are meant to be.

Think of it like this:  Imagine the psyche as a portal through which this energy is flowing. In its initial state, it is small and connected strongly to the beings supporting its existence (i.e. the parents), it is open and flowing … until it isn’t. It gets hungry or cranky or it’s not being soothed enough or it’s being discomfited in any number of ways.  Its world is quite literally falling apart; it is in pain and for all it knows will be in pain forever.

The child is in a primitive agony, what pediatric psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott called a state of “unthinkable anxiety” — a dread of annihilation.

In response to this state it writhes and screams and cries. Now, yes, I agree that a tantrum is a method of communication geared towards getting a caretaker’s attention, and therefore the crying can be seen as evolution’s way of guaranteeing survival. But I believe it is more than that…

Tears are to the injured psyche what bleeding is to the injured body.

In a physical injury, blood rushes to the wound and in doing so it cleanses and brings clotting factors that allow the wound to heal.

In a psychical injury — where a young psyche encounters circumstances that tear at its grasp of self and world — the psyche bleeds, and in doing so brings healing factors to the wound.

Imagine the psyche, and in particular the ego (the sense of self that knows itself to be itself — say that three times fast), as a portal-like physical construct composed of beliefs about self and world. As it goes through life experience, it must needs encounter circumstances that confound, contradict or altogether violate those beliefs.

At each such encounter, a “tearing” occurs; the ego construct begins to collapse, indeed a kind of death is experienced as the psyche cracks apart, and so a great force of life energy is needed first to keep the portal open, and second to repair and expand the ego so that it can accommodate the “new” world it has experienced. And the process by which this happens is a tantrum.

So really the parent’s role in a tantrum is to do nothing more than simply contain it; to let the child know that its expression is not destructive, that in fact it is very natural, and that it will resolve itself if it is merely borne through, and that s/he will be loved unconditionally throughout.

If the child comes to believe that this expression is destructive, however (as many of us have), then s/he will try to gain control over it and, in doing so, numb the pain of the body — which is a short-term solution to the pain which ultimately and unfortunately causes greater and more untenable pain in both psyche and body.

Paraplegic yoga teacher Matthew Sanford eloquently describes how this process metes out with his young son (segment starts at 26:05 of this interview in On Being), and the consequence of not allowing pain to be felt and expressed:

There is a reason why when my son — he’s six — is  crying, he needs a hug. It’s not just that he needs my love, he needs boundary around his experience. He needs to know that the pain is contained, and can be housed. And it won’t be limiting his whole being. He gets a hug and he drops into his body.

And when you drop into your body, paradoxically, typically pain gets less. Pain gets more intense … [when you’re afraid and pull out of your body] .. it really denies freedom. And it’s a great short-term strategy. That’s what I did as a thirteen-year-old [in the wake of my accident]. I pulled out of my body to get it, but that’s a short-term strategy and a lot of the process of my life is … embodying again and surrounding what’s going on, so I can be part of the world. 

If the child is not made to feel safe in the trauma of this experience, if s/he is not allowed to “drop into [his/her] body,” then not only does the necessary process of healing, growing and transforming not occur, the unprocessed experience remains in the body. Rather than allowing the psyche to transform to accommodate the experience, the experience and accompanying emotion gets shunted off into the unconscious, leaving the psyche worse than its initial immature state: Not only has it not grown, it has learned to fear the very pain that makes growth possible.

To a psyche in this state (which, to greater and lesser degrees is pretty much everyone in our culture), emotion becomes very dangerous indeed.   As we learn to conform socially, we are taught to further suppress emotion, and indeed may be shamed and rejected for its expression — further compounding the damage done in childhood.

To be continued… Read Part 3 on Friday, July 8th.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

By Carol Tandava

“I’ll give you something to cry about!!!”

A young mother slaps her crying toddler on a subway; the kid shrieks even louder. In another car, a mom continues chatting with her friend while her own child wails.

In both cars, onlookers have a variety of reactions: Horror, impatience, resentment, resignation. In the second car a woman makes faces to amuse the bawling child. But really, no one knows quite what to do.

And that is the problem with emotion — whether we experience it in the form of a screaming baby, or in the writhing tensions of our own bodies as life throws events and experiences at us that confound and flummox us — we just don’t quite know how to handle it… because most of us never learn how.

Growing up a sensitive child in a nuclear family, I was too soon aware of the profound effect my emotional states had on my parents. If I cried, threw a tantrum, was unreasonable or contradictory  … then I was a Bad Girl. Or my parents were Bad Parents (the worse option, I felt). Or in other cases, a well-placed tear was a way to get attention and affection. And explosions of laughter could do the same — or the reverse.

In other words, my family was pretty typical: Emotion provoked reaction, for good or ill; it wasn’t an expression for its own sake, but rather carried a volatile meaning to my parents or other adults that told them  not only whether whether I was “good” or bad, but whether they were “good” or “bad.” This is a huge burden to place on a kid, yet adults blithely do it consistently and persistently … because they don’t know how to do otherwise.

And children learn from this that emotion is a means to an end, a way to get a reaction in others. Ironically,  this use of emotion to extract emotion from others — by expressing or suppressing it in just the right way at the right time for the right adult — diminishes the child’s ability to allow emotion to do its necessary internal processing. Worse, the attention and control of others becomes an ersatz substitute for that internal processing — a lot of storm and drama but with no useful effect.

It becomes like eating junk food: You go through the motions of eating, your mouth is stuffed, your belly feels full (at least in the short term), but you are not nourished and end up starving to death.

Is it any wonder that emotion and any expression thereof is viewed with grudging tolerance, if not outright disdain?

So what purpose, then, does emotion have?

Well… this is my theory:

I believe emotion is an indicator of our sense of life force q’i or prana or kundalini or whatever you want to call it.

It can be compared to a flow of energy/vitality, and when it is flowing smoothly and without obstruction, then we feel safe, wanted, loved, of value, and have a sense that our natural expression is accepted by the world around us. Conversely, when we feel safe, wanted, loved, etc. then the energy flows smoothly and creates positive emotion. (The former method is employed by spiritual practices — get your energy flowing and positive experience will follow; the latter, ideally, in child rearing practices — protect, care for your child and s/he will feel loved.)

Negative emotion is the blockage of that energy, and strong negative emotion is an attempt to restore the flow by quite literally blasting out the blocks.

 

To be continued… Read Part 2 on Wednesday, July 6th.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

By Sharon Riegie Maynard

If I had needed a reminder of the deplorable state of women in our country, it could not have come with greater power than via my oldest Granddaughter, Sara. Sara is an incredible young woman… you know that kind of granddaughter, right?

She lives in another state, is doing her very adult life, married to a wonderful man as a partner and has always stepped into adventures that made me wish I were 40 years younger.

She sent me a text this morning that read, “At a conference today – Take Root: Reproductive Justice in Red States.”

Flash back to 1970’s when women were fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment here in this country. And then to 1973 and the Roe vs. Wade landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. I was so brainwashed by my patriarchal religion that I did not support the ERA nor did I cheer Roe vs. Wade. Oh, to do life over!

I had planned to write a very different newsletter this week. One cheering you on to finding your own vision, your own voice, your own authority. And that is an incredibly, valuable idea.

And…

If we women in the West do not wake up and shake off the blinders we have had placed on our eyes, the chains around our belly wisdom and return to our strong roots within Earth and our sisters, humanity is in BIG trouble!

Why do you think that women have been so targeted over the ages? Why have we been beaten down, laughed at, discounted?

Who has benefited because women are not at the decision making tables in GREAT numbers?

Look around you and see the devastation of corporations gone wild, the human trafficking, rape, murder, poisoning and double speak. You see the end results of domination and you see the total lack of the values, visions and voices of the women who create Good for those they love.

We, women in the U.S.A., have a tendency to walk around in a stupor. We talk of being privileged, of being safe, of being blessed while the power over our bodies, our food, our air, our children, our time has been taken from us. You think not? Who dictates your health care? Who decides if GMO foods are labeled? Who gets a pass when fracking destroys water or when lead laced water is sent into your home? Who benefits when the cancers in female reproductive systems run rampant? Who decides whether you have time off work and who decides that your work efforts are worth less then men?

A valuable friend of mine who helped women in Russia claim their place in the politics of that country said, “When you are not at the decision making tables, you are the meat!” Well, my sisters, we have been the meat for way too long.

Where do you begin? By waking up! All is not well and it is because the female mission has been squelched. Standing and designing cultures that result in  Good is not up to someone else! That is YOUR job. You are needed. Your malaise, your depression, your fear are the very things that allow those whose agenda is to dominate and use humanity want. Don’t give it to them!

Reconnect with the Earth! Find other women. Talk with one another honestly. Build strong connections Do not think that you are an isolated tree in this Forest of Sisters! You are so bound together in Spirit that when one wakes up, others wake up.

The singer/songwriter, Cris Williamson, told me in a conversation with her, “Everything that women began and accomplished in the 1960’s began with conversations over coffee in kitchens or coffee shops.”

We have to start talking with one another about things that matter and make sure our feet move!

treesisters.org is a group I want to highlight this week. I asked Clare Dakin, the Founding Mother, where you could go in their network to be feed by the energy of trees and Mother Earth. Her gifting to you is their archive of meditations and guided  visualizations. I have so benefited by them and am honored to share them with you. Women are sooo needed! Click here..

“Hypnos, God of Sleep

“Please awaken us.

“While we sleep Ignorance takes over the world.

“Take your spell off us.

“We don’t have long before

“Ignorance makes a coup d’état of the world!”

Gary in the book Mindset by Carol W. Dweck

We cannot go blindly into a Dark Night!

We must wake up and then wake up our Sisters.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

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