Today we share with you the story of someone who has been dealing with issues related to childhood for some time now. Following a personal conversation, Jipe received from us the exercise in Compassionate Inquiry that we recently described in a blog. She decided to go to work with it and after writing a few times, she has already gained intense, but valuable insights. She shares her experience below.
“Recently I received the list of questions from Compassionate Inquiry that can bring more clarity. This is what it says at the top as an explanation: ‘A compassionate search for the inner story behind what we as humans show to the outside world with our behaviour, our visions and emotions’. That is a quest that I have been engaged in for a long time. It is a trip where I feel like I’m going round in circles and not making much progress. Intuitively I know what I want, but I cannot put it into words, let alone have an idea where to find what I want. However, the first sentence spells out exactly what I’m looking for! For the first time in all that time I see words on paper that describe exactly what I mean. I want to get my inner story clear for myself in the first place, but I also want to better understand what it is like for others around me.
Reluctantly, I started answering the six questions twice a week: what do I not say no to although I want to, what is the impact, what do I feel in my body, what is the story behind it, where did I learn those beliefs, and what would I like to say yes to? I was very hesitant to get started because I know the answers to the questions are going to turn everything I know upside down. I don’t know where that is going to lead me, how all of this will mess things up…
In the writing process I am now starting to find out what could be the explanation for the very difficult contact with one of my stepchildren. Without wanting to go into details, I can say that this relationship is dramatically bad. I never knew what it really meant to ‘hate someone’s guts’, but now I do. The anger, rage and even hatred from me towards this child are very intense. I completely block when we are near each other. Just hearing the breathing triggers disgust and defense in me. Then I prefer to run away, because I know I cannot contribute anything positive to the contact. Having no contact then feels safer and more sensible. I have always held myself accountable for that intense experience; I was ashamed of it. This is not how I want to be. I am the adult, right? Surely I should be able to put things into perspective and respond in an ‘adult’ manner?
Entering the Compassionate Inquiry process really turns things upside down. For example, I discovered that there are remarkable similarities between how my father and my one stepchild act. I don’t feel empathy from them. They seem to live in their own world, with their own truth, a world in which there is no room for any other input or other truths. In their experience, if something goes wrong, it is never their fault, but always the other person’s fault, due to how the other perceives something. I feel no comfort in their speech, no warmth in their action.
However, I am now beginning to realise that the emotions I experience with my stepchild are so intense for me mainly because they awaken painful memories of my childhood. As a child of my father, I grew up in a way that always made me doubt myself. My self-esteem often feels like almost 0, just like my belief in my own abilities: also almost 0. And when I do try something, that infamous little devil on my shoulder is screwing things up, like a creature with my father’s bad habits, his energy and attitude, a voice that names everything I fail at and makes damaging remarks… my inner critic. The wall that I feel my father has built around him… I cannot see through it.
My stepchild does not seem to have built a strong identity of their own. What I see is that many behaviours, hobbies and pastimes are copied from others who are looked up to. Things are done as others do them. I see a lot of imitation in it and very little originality. I have always struggled with lack of authenticity; that horribly gets on my nerves. This means that I find it very difficult to enter into a stable relationship. I understand where this stepchild comes from, but still the trigger is too big for me to let it slip away, see it for what it is and not take it so personally. What I observe in our interaction touches too much on the pain of the past and how things often go in contact with my father even today.
These are things that make life very complicated for me. Now that I am compassionately exploring my own story with the six questions, I get more clarity about various dynamics. It feels like a relief, almost like a happy party, that I understand where my hatred and anger come from. At the same time, it also feels frightening. That anger in me is so intense. Where should I go with it? How can I interpret it differently? How can I get rid of that rage? Can I, just like with my stepchild, also start seeing where it comes from in my father? Can I begin to feel that much was not or is not about me, but about his pain? That is the step I want to learn to take and I really want to enter into that process. Looking with compassion at the behaviour of the other person that triggers me so intensely is still too much to ask at the moment. That is why I want to start learning to look at myself with compassion, hoping to find more inner peace.”
What a beautiful reflection this is! What is very clear from Jipe’s words is that the so-called ‘shadow work’, bringing out the dark sides of your life and your personality, the aspects of it that have been suppressed, is a process that takes courage and demands and deserves attention. You will not be easily ‘done with it’ either; it takes time, along with a safe space where you are listened to, where all your emotions are allowed to be there and where they are not rejected and judged. The wounded child in the adult must be allowed to mourn and scream in anger and grief.
So when we want to raise awareness of our old pain to help heal the wound, we need people who want to be there for us. That also means that on occasion we will all be in a position where we can be that kind of person for someone else. That often functions better the more shadow work we have done ourselves, but sometimes it is precisely listening to the other that brings connection and healing.
A whole new year is ahead of us. We hope that everyone who is on a quest, dares to be vulnerable and courageous in loving contact with others in order to heal in themselves or the other what hurt. A beautiful statement that was made at a healing ceremony is this: ‘Whoever dares to look the pain in the eye, heals seven generations back and seven generations forward.’
What an opportunity to contribute to a happier world!