The last couple of weeks I’ve been noticing a treacherous behavior pattern/coping mechanism that I employ around virtually anything unpleasant, which I’ve taken to calling Let’s Make The Best Of It. I noticed it first in how I react to my husband’s chronic depression: basically, this bypass pattern is my attempt to deny the reality of his disease: to deny he has it; to deny how it hurts me when he’s in it; to try and sugarcoat the significant impact it has on his well-being, and our family as a result.
And then, once I had a clear picture of that specific manifestation, I started to see literally hundreds of times in my life when I’d employed this mental back-flip in an attempt to ignore the reality of my circumstances. Big things; small things; all-the-way-back-to-childhood things. Repeatedly donning a well-worn pair of rose-colored glasses in an attempt to believe the positive spin I hoped would develop; an attempt to deny what was actually going on in my world.
- Mommy isn’t hitting me; she’s spanking me. Because I did something she told me not to do, but I didn’t listen
- Male person isn’t raping me; he’s giving me the sex I advertised wanting by coming here and getting drunk.
- My husband doesn’t have a disease that takes him away from me for weeks on end; he’s just having a bad time and if I could figure out the right thing to say, he would get better.
Does this sound at all familiar to you? Because given how Happiness Obsessed our culture is, I had a pretty hard time believing this was something unique to me. And then, just a few days after beginning to unravel this pattern, I was delivered some powerful corroborating evidence from the Womb of Light’s post The Most Insidious Forms of Patriarchy Pass Through the Mother:
In older generations, there was a belief in escape; a belief that we can pretend something painful doesn’t exist and it will simply go away. There was a belief that there would be a payoff for pretending. Many are discovering that payoff never comes. Subsequent generations of parents would say “I don’t want to screw up my kids the way I was screwed up by my parents” and think that was enough to prevent that from happening. Just knowing that you don’t want to pass along generational pain is not enough. It takes many, many years of focused inner work to stop cycles of inter-generational pain.
I learned Making The Best Of It from my mother and all the other women in my family; actually, some of the men, too. My family’s specific version of this was influenced heavily by their rock-solid Christian faith and attendant belief in Heaven as Reward. Basically, the world is pain and suffering, so don’t expect anything to go well here; instead, place all your hopes for a better life in the future. Everything will be awesome once we get to heaven.
My mother loved me in the ways she could given what was modeled for her. I know she wanted the best for me—and she had insufficient resources to make that actually happen in any meaningful way. Because she hadn’t done those many years of focused inner work before I arrived on the scene; how could she have? She was 21 years old when I was born, married to an abusive sociopath who had convinced her she was worthless (which didn’t take very much effort on his part), and already well steeped in patriarchal thinking.
Patriarchy is the social organization of a culture in which men hold more power than women. There is a common misconception that men are the only problem of patriarchy. Many continue to believe that only men perpetuate patriarchal thinking. However, women also perpetuate patriarchal attitudes.
Most of us learn patriarchal thinking in our families and it is usually taught unconsciously by mothers. This can be particularly damaging for daughters and their ability to flourish as empowered women because a mother’s treatment of her daughter gets internalized as her own sense of self. The patriarchal messages daughters receive from their mothers are more insidious and damaging than any of the cultural messages combined. Why? Because they come from the one person the daughter must bond with in order to survive.
The mother wound is a product of patriarchy. On a personal level, it is the mother’s projection of her own unhealed wounds on the daughter. And on the collective level, it’s the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that have resulted from generations of female oppression. Patriarchy distorts dynamics between mothers and daughters that leave both disempowered.
The patriarchal thread that runs through all dysfunctional dynamics between mothers and daughters is the demand for obedience in exchange for love. […]
You will not be loved unless you obey.
I most certainly received this message and I bet you did to, to some degree, regardless of your gender. Because there’s no escaping it; not in this world, not how it’s currently constructed. Albert Einstein said No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it, and I believe that directly applies. What’s required of me—of us—to heal myself personally and ourselves collectively from the evil message that we won’t be loved unless we obey, is transformation. Recreation.
And so I continue chipping away at my Pattern Infrastructure; I seek out and pick apart all the ways that patriarchy manifests itself in me because I REALLY want to get some space. I want to elevate my consciousness sufficiently that I can prevent myself from perpetuating the mother wound and engendering it in my son. I want to rip off these rose-colored glasses and stomp them to smithereens while simultaneously flipping off all those who would try and stop me. Because my empowerment is a beacon not only for my mother’s opportunity to heal, but for all the generations of women in my line who never got the chance.