Tag Archives: mother wound

My Very Own Misogynist

I learned how to hate women by listening to my mother hate herself. Her body. Her fat. Her hair. Her blood. Everything her body did was disgusting, wrong, an irritation, a sin. It was like she was trying to will her physical form into nonexistence by feeding it a steady diet of hate, coffee, shame, and far less food than it needed to thrive.

I learned how to hate women from The Church. Sinful, deceitful whores, subservient to man’s power. They existed only because of him. Just a rib. Formed as a second thought, an accessory. Not equal. Disgusting because of their blood. The only one revered was a virgin. Because women are only worth as much as their hymen and the children they can produce.

I learned to view women as competition. Because women don’t produce anything except children, they’re work. They have to be provided for, cared for. That means they need a man. A good man. All women need a good man. And so if you have a good man, all other women are a threat and ultimately want to steal him.

They are to be viewed with suspicion. Sneered at. Cut down. Demeaned. I learned to talk shit about what other women wear, how they walk, what they say, how they do their hair, what they bring to the potluck, and how they discipline their children. Judge them. Scorn them. Hate them.

Women and their bodies are fucking disgusting. They’re nothing but a burden for men to take care of. And fuck.

I learned this in the looks and from the words of my uncles and grandfather, from my stepfathers, from magazines and TV. I learned it from breathing my mother’s air and being born from her body.

There is nowhere on this planet where I have been spared this lesson.

The voice that lives inside me and says these things isn’t me. This voice who judges every woman I see walking around in the world. This voice who sees all things “feminine” as “less than” and “weak.”

This voice exists inside my body, inside a body that knows what it says isn’t true. A body that was powerful enough to birth a child. A body that continues to breath and succeed in this “man’s world.” And yet I still believe what it says. I still despise the things about me that are feminine. I still see a woman’s tears as a manipulation. I still don’t trust them.

Sitting with my misogynist terrifies me. This is fucking gross and scary and I can feel my guts twisting as I try to both feel it and protect myself from it. I’m angry and sad and, I don’t know, just tired I guess of hearing this voice. Tired of feeling this terror.

Thanks to Nekole Malia Shapiro for the title and edits on this post. ❤

Without obligation and resentment, I’m nothing

The martyr persona is a well-known and reviled archetype in our modern collective consciousness. Because we live within oppressive structures that are heavily influenced by objectified, commodified, monotheistic, and male-centered religious overtones, it’s not surprising that the commonly-depicted martyr is a female-bodied person; specifically, a mother. Perpetually over burdened, constantly exhausted, demand-sensitive, short-tempered, narcissistic, and dramatic to the extreme—she can shame you into feeling bad about anything you try to do.

I was raised as and have mostly identified as a female, even as I struggled with what that meant for the more “masculine” and blended parts of me. I currently identify as androgynous; however, both main branches of my martyr persona feel “female” to me.

One of them arose in response to physical incest with my father and the societal training that followed to manifest as a sex object for male-bodied persons to project their desires upon.

The other arose in response to emotional incest with my intermittently-single mother, her leaning heavily on my executive function to support her, and the training that followed to manifest as a productive member of the capitalist machine.

Since both of these branches were oriented toward and bent in service to male-dominated structures and desires, what follows is presented in a gender binary where the martyr’s gender is female and the other’s gender is male. I *have* met male-identified martyrs, though in my experience they tend to be less common.

My mother and the women of my family all had deeply-entrenched martyr personas. I definitely have one, and I’ve spent a lot of my time in holistic peer counseling learning as much as I can about her facets. There are many, some of which I’ll discuss here.

My martyr persona manifested as a reaction to sacrifice extracted through oppression made possible by the skewed power dynamic present in my traditional, nuclear, patriarchal family.

She is my most durable and deeply-seated control pattern. She is my psyche’s attempt to claim some measure of control in situations where her No is not heard. Situations where she isn’t seen as fully human, but as an object; a means to an end. That end is the primacy of someone else’s desire or unacknowledged need for attention.

Wounded families, ravaged lives

In my case, that someone was my parents, neither one of whose wounds got the attention they needed to heal before conceiving me. At 21 and 22 years of age, they were still struggling through the morass of having been dis-empowered and unseen by their own parents. And so once they had me, they unconsciously sought ways to feel powerful: by subjugating and extracting attention from someone more vulnerable. Someone dependent on them for survival.

When children are born under duress—either as a result of rape, a sense of familial obligation, or a desire to fit in with societal norms—they cannot be seen in their complete complexity. Their needs cannot be wholly considered as valid, their pain cannot be felt as fully real, and their resistance to arbitrary demands is coded as defiance that warrants punishment.

These are the historically invisible and unacknowledged wounds of the nuclear, patriarchal family. They destroy families, and ruin opportunities for true, embodied relatedness and inter-personal intimacy.

They also need tending, as all wounds do; they are seeping pus, open and viscous. Someone is needed to tend the wounds of our entrenched familial structures. Someone needs to take responsibility for the heavy sins of rape, violence, and displaced shame. That someone is the martyr. 

The martyr is slowly ground down while bearing and being blamed for the sins of man. Adding insult to injury, she becomes complicit in the act of her personal annihilation by learning to hide her mirror. Because she does not believe in and cannot claim her power, she is forced to make the impact of men’s actions invisible. She cannot confront him because he wields more power than she does, and all the structures are on his side. The brothers have stacked their deck well.

I say No, but no one listens.
My boundaries are not worth respecting. They are “preferences,” not needs.
I am an accessory, a support system, a vessel to be filled with someone else.
I don’t have needs or desires, don’t feel pain.
Tell me what you need.

The martyr and the scapegoat

A martyr is defined as someone who is killed for their religious beliefs.

A scapegoat also has religious roots; according to Leviticus 16 of the biblical old testament, it was “a goat sent into the wilderness after the chief Jewish priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it.”

It’s interesting to me how these two concepts have seemingly become enmeshed over the centuries; how the lines between their meanings are blurred. Because the flavor of my martyr persona’s pain aligns with being scapegoated. And to my seeing, this resonates with what Jesus the Christ was, in parallel to being martyred for his rejection of the existing Jewish faith.

According to the biblical new testament teachings of my childhood, Jesus “died for our sins.” The scapegoat was driven away to the desert (killed) while carrying sins. It’s a new versus old testament battle of symbols.

Now, anyone raised in a monotheistic western church knows that women are more sinful than men. They are, in fact, defiled from the moment of their birth because (1) they bleed (and have the audacity to create life) and (2) they allied with the serpent (kundalini) aka Satan in the garden of Eden.

My body internalized the church’s teachings as “because they are wicked, filthy, and innately more sinful, women are forced to carry the burden of sin while men get to be free.” And since they’re free, they also get to dispense salvation while hoarding the weapons and holding the purse-strings.

The privilege of the male-bodied is in getting to blame the female-bodied while wearing the guise of  magnanimous generosity.

So, here’s something that rubs me raw. To my read, Jesus the Christ was totally genderqueer. They embodied most of the traits that the patriarchs disdained and judged to be “weak.” They lived with and loved whores and savages, stood up for the poor and children, rejected the trappings of power and influence.

For me, Jesus’ queerness manifested in how they represented the most powerful and feared parts of humanity: the traditionally “feminine” parts. They loved unconditionally. They accepted people for who they were right now in the moment while holding the view of their perfection. They literally put their body on the front line against entrenched power.

And they became a legend. So powerful a legend, in fact, that churchmen had to write whole books full of lies to cover up and explain away what they could never understand because they disavowed living bodies and chose to eroticize a dead one.

From the perspective of my martyr persona, she was created to be a scapegoat, but claiming the title of martyr gives her power.

Scapegoat me long enough and I will not only identify with the role, I will claim the title with pride, step into its power, turn it around, and make you pay every day for the rest of your miserable goddamn life.

The pain of resentment

The martyr is obligated to prioritize the other’s desires to the exclusion of her lived, embodied reality. In the face of other’s needs she can have no wants. She learns to pretend that her needs don’t matter. She learns to eroticize the experience of disembodiment. She swallows her disappointment, attempts to smile, and grimaces inside as she pretends the acid doesn’t burn her gut.

But there’s a price. Every facet of her psyche that gets splintered, every disowned need, every swallowed gob of bile comes back as resentment. She is fucking angry and resentful and wants SOMEONE to pay for how much she hurts.

Her pain is the most important thing in the world; its embedded in her skin, has become enmeshed with her organs and bones. As a result, she needs a high degree of control around how people interact with her pain body. Her pain must always be the most important thing in the room. Her suffering trumps everyone else’s.

I’ve learned that when I’m in my martyr persona, I don’t believe other people are real. Not real like my pain is real. And because they aren’t real, their pain isn’t real either. They’re making it up in a pathetic attempt to grab my attention, which I am so fucking loathe to give. No one else’s pain should get any attention, EVER.

And when my martyr sees a chance to get attention, she grabs it. She is a viciously desperate opportunist who can turn almost any situation around to focus on her suffering and/or what a despicable creature she is.

You want to talk about the hard day you had? (EYEROLL) Hers was worse.

You got a really bad headache? (GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK) Child’s play compared to hers.

You want some intimate sexy times? (I HATE YOUR UGLY BODY) She will break down in a deflective orgy of self loathing, sobbing, and shame.


Are you my mommy?

To my current understanding, my martyr persona is a byproduct of enmeshment, primarily with my mother. She represents the apex of my mother wound. I’ve felt her formative tendrils stretching back to infancy: when I was a colicky baby born to a young, anxious, lonely, first-time mother living far away from her family of origin with an abusive sociopath.

My mother had desperate, palpable needs she couldn’t claim or speak, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t be felt. That their desire for ultimate fulfillment couldn’t be inferred, alluded to, and passively-aggressively pushed into the room for someone else to pick up on.

Baby Chrissy learned that she could ease mommy’s anxiety by doing certain things, like crying less. While it certainly wasn’t a conscious decision, as I grew older I learned to ensure my mother felt cared for and loved so that I could feel safe. I prioritized her needs over mine because she had more power than me; because my survival depended on her.

She had the power to feed, clothe, shame, and nurture me (or not). I did not have equal power to her, but because she and I were enmeshed—both believing at some level we were the other—she transferred her power to me. She gave me the power to make her feel better.

But I couldn’t always, nor did I always want, to make her feel better. And over time I resented her for needing me to. I didn’t want to be her mother, I wanted HER to be the mother! So, I acted out from a place of hurt, resentment, and anger. Of course, because she’d given me the power to make her feel better, as my outbursts intensified and I got physically stronger, she ultimately became afraid of me.

Afraid of the power I had over her, which she had unconsciously given to me from the place of her own dis-empowerment. I felt obligated to take care of and “mommy” her, as the one “in power.” But she was still the adult, which meant she had the actual structural power.

This also meant the other adults in our world would side with her to oppress and take advantage of their children to get their needs met, men and women alike. Because they couldn’t see themselves as separate from their own parents; hadn’t yet done the work of individuation, and so couldn’t acknowledge how much power they forced us to bear in service to their wounds.

The power to discipline with love

Enmeshment will cause us to confuse judgment for discipline.  Nekole Malia Shapiro

When my mother didn’t do the work to individuate from her parents and claim her own power, she ended up giving it away to those around her. Some of it went to her abusive partners, and some of it went to my sister and I. I watched her model this and learned to do it, too. In my own life, whether I give someone my power or it’s forcibly taken, my survival then becomes dependent on that person and we reach a state of enmeshment.

At which point I am able to claim victim status. If you have all the power, I am a victim and without power. My martyr knows that if I’m a victim then you are the aggressor, and you’re responsible for causing my wounds, which means I can blame you.

When a parent projects their power onto their child and claims victim status, they can then justify judging and punishing that child.

A person in their embodied power (like I suspect Jesus was) knows how to discipline—how to disciple— people; how to flow in and with power. How to lead and model loving behavior by living it. A person without power is perpetually wounded and can claim power only through judgment. But judgment isn’t loving; it’s retributive and born of displaced pain.

Judgment kills. Discipline is born of love.

Through eight years of parenting, I’ve learned that I have to love myself and claim my power before I can discipline my child. If I hate myself and give my power to my son for him to manage, I’ll punish him when he fails to take care of my feelings with his actions. The martyr would have me believe he takes my power by force, that he’s willfully trying to fuck with me, and that I should punish him for being so selfish.

When I sit in a place of disowned self and power, every time I encounter my son being his whole, authentic, embodied, willful, loud-ass self, the martyr wants to lash out at and blame him for her pain.

How dare he be whole when I am so broken! How dare he scream and yell and dance and rage when I can’t feel anything!

Why does he get to have feelings?! I WANT TO HAVE FEELINGS TOO

On performing intimacy

Because I was incestuous with my father and because I was raised in a world focused on rape and conquest coupled with the wholesale denial of feminine erotic power, my martyr is also completely enmeshed with and in control of my intimate erotic body.

Intimacy is pain. Eroticism is pain. Sex is pain.

If it’s painful then there’s also an obligatory performance of enjoyment to cover up the pain and ensure the whole sorry act is over as soon as possible. A performance of appeasement tinged with exhaustion and resentment. A performance where the martyr tries to convince you she’s actually really into what’s going on. Whether it’s sucking your cock or allowing you access to her body, the martyr is performing.

In reality, she gives less than two fucks about you. But it’s important to keep up her end of the fantasy where she’s keenly interested in *LOOKING LIKE* she cares. She needs to make sure you don’t get ragey and blame her because she doesn’t seem to be enjoying your tongue acrobatics.

Keeping up the appearance of perfection is of critical importance to my martyr. So, she has scripted movements and phrases and sounds that she has learned are desirable during sex. She’s watched a lot of cishet male porn over the years, so she knows what a hot sexy woman is supposed to look and sound like. She desperately wants to appear “fuckable.”

These scripts help me cover up the fact that in human years my actual erotic body is four. Unfortunately, they also leave me feeling like a dirty liar and I’ve deeply judged anyone who couldn’t tell I was pretending to enjoy their amazing hot thrusting action oh yeah please please.

Because my martyr wasn’t allowed to nurture her own desires or passions, because she didn’t have an enlightened mentor who loved their body to show her how to honor and love her own body, she’s had to pick up (really shitty) coping mechanisms in her attempt to appear human. She’s incredibly lonely. She’s also ashamed by her lack of developed interests or hobbies, so she surfs off your interests and feigns fascination in then so you can’t see how empty she is.

Empty and alone. And crushingly sad. But she won’t tell you she’s sad. Nope. She doesn’t have feelings. Instead, she will inwardly seethe and try to get you to “figure out” what’s wrong by reading her mind because then she will know you really care. 




Little Boy, Abandoned

The last few weeks, I’ve been *really* pissed off about men “holding the door” for me. Unrealistically so, it seemed, given what I know of my patterns. Something just didn’t make sense. I finally had to acknowledge I didn’t quite know what was going on, and that was okay. I would continue feeling and giving voice to this piece that felt like so much bottled rage.

From the perspective of inside my body, my rage feels like it comes from two directions: up from my genitals and down from my esophageal sphincter (where the esophagus meets the stomach, right in front of the solar plexus). The part in my stomach, I can clearly feel is a result of swallowing decades worth of rage.

Don’t talk back. Be a good girl. Smile. Don’t make a scene. Be kind. Stop throwing a fit. Forgive and forget. Tone it down. Smile. It’s not that bad. It could be so much worse. Make the best of it. You’re just crying to get attention. You’d be so much prettier if you smiled.


Those phrases encapsulate my experience of being born in a female body. They are the oppression and coping mechanisms I learned from my mother, grandmother, aunts, teachers, sister, and peers—all the females in my life. Horizontal violence tastes like swallowed rage, tone policing, and denial; and it feels like poisonous burning embers in my gut.

The rage coming from my genitals has been less clear, more obscure; it hides in a way I haven’t been able to put my finger on. Actually, that’s not quite it—from an embodied point of view, I’ve been able to hear my vagina and clitoris and uterus, but I haven’t been able to hear my asshole. I can hear the “female” parts of my genitals, but not the “male” one. I knew my asshole had something to do with my father wound, but the particulars have remained hidden, occluded from my newfound ability to feel into these parts.

And then, one morning while meditating, I found out why. There’s an abandoned little boy living in my asshole. A horcrux.

He’s younger than the little girl who also lives at the bottom of my psychic well. He’s also far more fragile, volatile, violent, unrestrained, and incoherently angry. He’s the one that NO ONE has ever been able to or wanted to see. Not even me. They wanted to see a girl because I had a vagina, but I’ve always struggled to “act like a girl,” to become what they projected on me. It always felt like an act. A cheap suit.

From the perspective of this new part, my father wound story is that he DID see the little boy, which is why he raped my asshole, and then left us to deal with and suffer through the consequences. After my father left, no one wanted to or had the attention to care for a rage-filled, 5-year-old boy in a girl’s body who was carrying around the seed and memory of a vicious sociopath.

So they walked away and left that little boy behind in the dark. In his stead, they welcomed the (mostly) quiet, compliant, and less volatile little girl. This little girl took his place and, along with it, inherited the heavy burden of trying to convince everyone Christina was actually a girl. Even though she knew otherwise. She knew who she stood guard over; who she protected down there in the dark.

A little boy who has forgotten what it’s like to be held in loving arms. A little boy who was good for nothing more than getting fucked and holding his daddy’s shame. A convenient little boy that an entire family could abandon without remorse because they were also wounded and hadn’t the resources betwixt them to see. A little boy whose resentment and rage and sense of betrayal has bloomed like a vengeful and terrifying mushroom. Tended, carefully, down in the dark.

The little boy who lives in my asshole.

He’s the one who doesn’t want adult men holding the door for us. He’s confused why everyone thinks he’s a girl. He’s confused as to why anyone would think he isn’t smart enough or strong enough to open a door all by himself.

He doesn’t want to smile at those men for “being polite.” He doesn’t want to allow their eyes to rove over our body, assessing, condemning, or desiring us as we walk by. He refuses to play the fucking chivalry game.

Because most important of all, he doesn’t want those men getting BEHIND us. He knows what it feels like to be preyed upon. He KNOWS what it feels like to be terrorized, for your asshole to clamp down and literally vibrate in terror. To be so terrified of the pain that you believe you’ll die. Waiting there, in the dark, for death to come.

I don’t want to be reminded of that terror when I walk through a door; even if it’s JUST THE TINIEST AMOUNT. I shouldn’t have to feel like a piece of meat when I walk through a door. I resent feeling like property to be admired or abandoned at their whim.

So, no. We don’t want you to hold the fucking door for us. Because we aren’t going to give you power over our asshole. This is OUR body and it is OUR right to claim this space.

This time, you get to walk in front of ME, motherfucker.

Olly Olly Oxen Free

You know the bittersweet feeling that comes from being an Awesome Hider? You’ve found this great spot and you fit inside perfectly and you’re concealed so well you may as well be invisible. You can hear your It-friend walking by and they don’t even get a whiff of your presence. You feel so proud because you’ve found a Great Hiding Spot.

After a while, you can hear more, and then all of your friends running back and forth, yelling for you, but they can’t find you. And you get a thrill down your spine because you’ve actually found The Best Hiding Spot. You want to see how long it takes them to find you. So you stay put and breath through your mouth, and don’t dare to move.an.inch.

And then it gets really quiet. You can’t hear your friends anymore. And you wonder where they’ve gone. They wouldn’t stop looking without telling you…would they?

And the longer you sit there, pondering this turn of events, the stranger it feels. Maybe you start to wonder whether you CAN be found. Maybe you disappeared. Maybe you aren’t real anymore. You realize that no one is going to find you here.

I’ve been hiding all my life. From monsters both real and imagined. From disappointment and failure. From other people’s emotional outbursts, manipulations, and fits. From pain and grief. I’ve created an internal life that’s perfectly suited to all my patterns and preferences. I’m well adapted to living inside my head. All. By. My. Self.

When I was 4 and then 14 and then 24 (and then 34), suffering through growing up, hating people for dozens of reasons, living inside my mind seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I learned how to perform normalcy, a semblance of happiness. But now I’m 44 and in a relationship with someone whose trying desperately to See Me. He wants to connect with me. Has wanted to do so for the eight years we’ve been together.

And I’ve come to realize that my perfect hiding spot is actually a prison. A prison that’s exactly the same size as my body. A Christina-shaped prison. I can’t move in here. It’s hard to take a full, deep breath. My solar plexus trembles when I do. I’m 500 feet down inside a cold, dark well and I can’t hear my friend’s voices anymore.

The more I use somatic, breathing meditations to grow my awareness, the more this becomes clear. My breath is forcing me to bump up against the walls of my prison. And it hurts. It hurts being this alone. Alone in the dark with my breath and my shame.

Because it’s shame that keeps me here. Shame who tells me it’s better to be “safe.” Better to remain hidden. Better not to try. Better not to breathe fully or lean into creativity. Better not to risk being seen. Don’t call attention to yourself. Don’t let them see you. They’ll eat you, rape you, kill you, hate you. The monster will find you.

Shame is the monster. And while I didn’t put it here, inside my body, down deep in the crevices of my chest and pelvis and heart; it’s my monster to battle. I’m the only one here. The only one who can climb up and out of this well.

I have to give up this hiding place. It isn’t actually safe here, isn’t healthy. I’m suffocating, smothered by my shame.

I found me. I’m right here, breathing. And I’m coming out.

On Death, Gender, and the Orgasm as a Performance of Femininity

I am now 44 years old. I am a mother and a head of household. I am past the age where people used to be generally considered “over the hill.” From a transition standpoint, this is significant for me personally because there’s only one generation remaining between me and mortality: the generation of my mother and her siblings. My next big generational shift will be to matriarch/crone. My mother’s will be to death.

My mother’s death isn’t imminent, but it is inevitable, and even though only in her early 60’s she has had a fair share of medical scares. Cancer. Stroke. Falls with broken bones. A choking incident that brought her dangerously close to asphyxiating if it hadn’t been for my stepfather finding and resuscitating her. All these events remind me of her mortality by keeping it in the peripheral vision of my mind’s eye. Watching. Waiting for each of us to advance another rung on the generational ladder.

On Day of the Dead, I set up an altar to the matriarchs in my family; I put my attention on my maternal great-grandmother, my maternal grandmother, and my mother. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy the last four years talking about these women and the not-insignificant effects they had not only on me but each another. As an ancestral line, I can clearly see the traits handed down to me courtesy of them, some of which include strength, anxiety, determination, a high need for control, frugality, tenacity, and a deep sense of familial duty/sacrifice/obligation.

The altar is still intact and I continue to feel their presence, hear their voices. Even more strongly now than before—I think, because I’m calling out for their support and wisdom. Because I can feel myself beginning to prepare energetically and psychically for the death of my mother. Even if it’s only theoretical at this stage, as a planner who is finely attuned to transitions, doorways, and liminal spaces it’s a transformation that’s especially potent for me during this season of darkening.

What I’m feeling into right now is how the process of her dying will change the dynamic of our relatedness; how she will take on more child-like qualities and I will assume the more parental role. I see the possibility for me to support her more in the coming years; to take the skills I’ve learned through parenting Avery and re-parenting myself, and leveraging those to hold a more compassionate, patient space for her. After all, she has a high need for control just like I do and as she loses control over more of her self, I anticipate the need for a lot of patience on my end.

As if sitting with the impending death of my mother weren’t intense enough, it’s also bringing up older, deeper body memories for me. Because this isn’t the first time she and I have danced with power dynamics and leaned on one another for support.

Embodying the Masculine as a Girl Child

When I was 5 years old, my mother and I (and my 3-year-old sister) were in a pretty shitty situation. My sexually, physically, and emotionally abusive biological father had just left us for the last time because my mother stood up to him, and told him to get out and never come back. An act of strength and courage I have since thanked her for many times. An act that while freeing us from him, also left us in a position of needing to depend on one another more directly, more concretely.

Like many women who had been trapped by domestic abuse, she was literally at rock bottom; overwhelmed, exhausted, deeply wounded, and also needing to care for two small children. Even with the local support of her parents and brothers, it was still really hard at home. She needed me to be her “big girl,” to be strong and help her with baby Theresa when she got overwhelmed. She needed me to carry a lot more emotional and psychic weight than was appropriate given my age and equally vulnerable position.

I was naturally precocious in the ways of care-taking and helping; I was a sensitive, empathetic, deeply-feeling child from a long line of caretakers and emotional baggage handlers. And so, when my mother needed someone to be strong for her, someone she could count on to always be there and love her, I became a source of support, reliability, and certainty for her in a world that seemed bent on hurting her. She could talk to me, share her feelings, and cry about how much it hurt. She could count on me to be relatively independent, capable, and self reliant.

I believe that I embodied the masculine to protect her from falling deeper into dysfunction, to protect my primary source of security, safety, and love. And yet none of it could be acknowledged as such; it was an unconscious resonance between us. She wasn’t consciously awake enough to recognize what was happening and I was a little girl desperate to ensure Mommy wouldn’t abandon or stop loving me.

And so, in a sense, we became psychically married, she and I. Co-dependent. Enmeshed. Tied together because of the wounds the patriarchy and my father inflicted, and we jointly had to recover from. As a result, I have always felt responsible for her well-being; responsible to be a sturdy framework against which she could drape her tired, bruised limbs and cry.

Being Told to Put on the Girl Suit

At the same time, despite how masculine and grown-up I felt in the relationship with my mother, I was obviously in the body of a young girl. I knew I was a girl and I’ve never felt any confusion or disgust about that fact; it’s just that I’ve never been comfortable or confident in my ability to perform femininity. The world was telling me to put on the pink suit and its myriad complicated accouterments, but at home I was clearly wearing something that approximated the blue suit, at least in function. Thus began my internal dissonance around gender and society’s expectations in regard to it.

As a cis-female born in 1971 America and raised by a traditionally-valued family, I’ve been handed a lot of narrowly-defined programming about how I’m supposed to look, what I’m allowed to do, and how I should conduct myself. As an androgynous, 6-foot-tall, anxious, suspicious woman with an advanced case of “Resting Bitch Face,” I’ve had a damn hard time manifesting those programs in ways that convince people.

Aside from the fact I live in a rape culture as a second-class citizen—which means I’ve been raped, get paid less than my male co-workers, and still have a hard time getting people to take me seriously—living in a female body has been pretty cool. I actually like being a woman, especially now that I’m in my 40’s. What I find so distasteful is trying to embody and perform femininity. Lace. Mini skirts. High heels. Makeup. Push-up bras. Smooth legs. An hourglass hip-to-waist ratio. An inviting smile. A willingness to be told what to think.

I worked hard to adopt the mannerisms and affectations of Society’s Desirable Feminine, or at least someone whose appearance shouted I’M READY TO GET FUCKED, which is essentially the same thing. These attributes and the dogged pursuit of them are what I hate about the mainstream definition of culturally-acceptable femininity. Because every single one of them is about oppression. Getting smaller. More contained. More malleable. Hobbled. Agreeable. Compliant. Tortured. Objectified.

What about the Christina suit? It’s contains an entire spectrum of colors and would allow me fluid movement. Does anyone want to see me wearing it? No?

Finding my Authentic Orgasmic Rhythm

One of the things they don’t tell you straight-away about performing femininity is the fact it’s arbitrary, often conflicting, and designed to keep you off balance. Embarrassed. Competitive. Ashamed. Inadequate. Because horizontal violence and oppression. For example, let’s look at the female orgasm.

Over the last few months I’ve discovered that my body doesn’t want to climax every time Brendan and I have sex. She actually prefers to do so every 2-3 times; a rhythm that allows Her to be literally fed by both our combined sexual energy and His semen. She wants to hold that energy inside her and use it to fuel all manner of erotic undertakings like blogging, cooking, and remembering how amazing it is to live inside this beautiful body. To fuel the remembering that Her pleasure is worth building and worth waiting for.

I’m standing in the shower one morning, seeing the truth of this newly-discovered rhythm, and wondering why it feels so revolutionary. I asked my body, “Body, why do you feel so amazed, relieved, and empowered to have discovered this?” The answer came, “Because I’ve been expected to have an orgasm every time we have sex.” Oh. Why? Because that’s a crucial part of performing femininity. According to popular media/porn, we all “know” when a woman has an orgasm because she’s loud and makes a big deal out of it, yelling and flailing around because the pleasure is just so epic.

The pleasure that the man is generating with his amazing, big, fat cock. OBVIOUSLY. So, once she has been thoroughly pleasured, that’s his signal—the sign that he’s “done a good job,” that he’s “earned” his release. That he can now cum, secure in the fact his penis is desirable, he’s an amazing lover, and he is worthy of further love and attention. His ego is intact. For the time being.

As the woman, what if I can’t or don’t want to have an orgasm? Well, now I’m coming dangerously close to bruising, crushing, or invalidating his ego and suffering the consequences. Because there will certainly be consequences and I’m the one who gets to clean up the emotional/psychological fallout. In this construct, preserving/protecting the male ego is MY responsibility and ensuring that ego feels secure all hinges on my ability to perform a convincing orgasm. Every time. Or else.

That’s a lot of pressure and my body has decades of it tamped down inside. Like I said, I’ve never been confident in my ability to perform femininity convincingly enough to ensure my safety.

Fortunately for me, I now have a partner whose aware of all that programming; both sides of it. He knows exactly what it’s like to have a fragile masculine ego that depends on near-constant feminine reassurance for its survival. And because he’s also committed to deep, bilateral healing in our relationship, he has given me a lot of space, time, and reassurance to find my rhythm. He doesn’t ask me to perform feminine sexuality for him unless I choose to do so. He wants to see pure, unadulterated, androgynous Christina and to discover what kind of sex SHE wants. What a fucking relief!

Loving Her as Loving Myself

So, my mother is going to die and with her will go the physical connection that my masculine has to her. How do I want to experience her in the time we have left? Over the years I have shared with her some of my childhood experience; how I’ve felt wounded by her inadequacies, how I’ve felt oppressed by and responsible for her pain, how it felt to be her daughter. Those were anxious, gut-churning encounters for me because holding up a mirror so my mother can see how she inadvertently wounded me took a lot of courage for me to do and for her to look.

It also hurt her. Because she knows she wasn’t the mother we both needed her to be. She couldn’t be. This world ensured she was broken by the time I came into her life. And I no longer feel the need to punish her for that, to try and get her to take responsibility for all the ways she let me down. For the ways she leaned on, squished, and controlled me. If she had the skill to be more respectful, validating, and supportive she would have been. I believe that with all that I am.

I’m a mother; I know how hard it is. And because we both know, it feels like I can now begin the final stages of individuating from her and claim my full identity. Every time I share space with her, feel her love for me, and feel my love for her, I can also step away from her with compassion, with respect. I can complete the process that allows me to transition past, through and with her.

Listening to My Body’s Songs

The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our conceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday our body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who—still whole in spirit—will accept no compromises or excuses. And it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth. –Alice Miller

A few nights ago, Brendan and I were discussing how I feel whenever I’m given the chance to discuss my childhood wounding with my mother. As you might imagine, my feelings are complex and it hasn’t always been easy for me to distinguish which of those feelings are for ME and which are for HER. Which ones are about how I’m currently feeling and which are about how she will feel in the future as a reaction to what I might say or do. Because, as a co-dependent child, it was often important to my safety and well-being that I consider her feelings before mine. In the hierarchy of emotions, hers were more important because she controlled the resources.

Let me be clear: I say this not to blame her personally. If I’m leveling any blame at all, it’s at the violent patriarchal structure that created her and all the women who came before her. The oppressed and ultimately sadistic women who contributed to who she was as a woman and a parent.

Historically, one of the most prominent feelings I’ve had when thinking about my childhood and my mother’s role in it, is anxiety. Because I’m not sure if what I remember experiencing was true. I’m not confident in my ability to justify my position or powerfully back up what I’m saying. And if I can’t prove it, then I shouldn’t even say it in the first place, according to my patterns and programming.

Because I was thoroughly indoctrinated to not believe Me. My body was appropriated for the release and satisfaction of adult males. My mind was appropriated by the public schools that told me I should only learn what I’m instructed to, not what I’m driven to discover on my own. My spirit was appropriated by the church that told me, as a human—and especially as a female—I was born evil and could only find redemption by surrendering to male authority.

So how, exactly, was I going to prove my experience when I had difficulty believing it myself? How was I going to offer The Truth of my life when presented with the chance to plead my case to my mother? How could I stand up for my self and its experience when she couldn’t do that for her self? When she crumbled in front of me because my accusatory words hurt her? When she was herself a victim of the very same structures as I?

You can hear all the judgmental language in this, right? Proof. Truth. Blame. These are all concepts of oppression and minimization, meant to annihilate the inconvenience of personal experience and expression.

And then, on a Tuesday evening in February, my body finally Got It, to use that famous Landmark phrase. This isn’t about me telling The Truth. It’s about me telling My Truth.

I don’t have to *prove* anything. I’m not standing before God, offering up my life as evidence of my worthiness or rightness or blamelessness. This isn’t about me earning my way into Heaven or Harvard by getting all the right answers. This isn’t about me having to convince my mother that my feelings do, in fact, count just as much as hers.

It’s about me sharing my experience as I remember it. I’m telling my stories. I’m not telling The Truth because I can’t. I don’t have that omniscient perspective and never will.

This may seem straightforward and obvious to you, but it has never been obvious to me. Not ever. So, to suddenly find myself free of the expectation that everything I say must be the provable, incontrovertible truth was awesome in the literal sense of the word.

Excited and a little dizzy, I shared my new-found insight with Brendan, and he offered me a wonderful perspective about what a person’s stories are. He said “Those stories are your body’s songs, Baby; they are the sound of Life as it’s filtered through you. Your songs are beautiful and are worth hearing. As are everyone’s.”

As a person whose body has been locked down, tight, and armored for as long as I can remember, what he said struck me as rather revolutionary. Because I’ve spent my life ignoring my body, its signals, and its needs—either because someone else found them inconvenient or because I did. Until I gave birth to Avery and his head stretched me wide open, destroying everything I thought I knew about embodiment, I hadn’t been IN my body at all. Everything below-the-neck was something my brain found inconvenient or ugly, something that occasionally hijacked my experience because it needed immediate care or consideration.

I had internalized the message that my body was for other people, not for me; so why would I listen to what it was telling me if I couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t want to listen anyway?

The more time I spent really listening to my body, decoding her strange yet beautiful language and signals, the more clearly I could hear her stories. After a while, I couldn’t hold those stories in any longer. Because as my bodily intuition developed, my voice also became more capable, stronger, more clear. My voice wanted to speak, to sing. I began to believe that my story was worth telling, that I had something worth sharing with other people who maybe had experienced some of the things I had.

These stories are my experience; my unique experience of the world as it’s played through me. They are my songs, my perspectives, my feelings. Which is why I started the blog: because my voice was ready to tell the stories that my body was sharing with me.

This started for me as a way to heal my wounds; to free myself from the oppressive ideology I was handed; to become a sovereign woman in a world that hates women, and seeks to keep them hobbled and in service. It has since evolved into an exercise in community healing. A community built of women who want to know both themselves and one another, intimately. Deeply. All the way down to the core. All the way back to the 4-year-olds. Because for many women living in this world, that’s when we were first wounded. Maybe even earlier.

The world we live in forces us to wound one another to survive. I want us to heal those wounds by loving one another and listening to the stories. By singing our songs.

I’m not trying to tell The Truth because that would be impossible. I’m telling My Truth because that’s the only perspective I have. I believe that by doing this I’m setting an example for other women. I believe that by sharing my experience I’m essentially giving you permission to know your body, to tell your stories, to sing your songs. You have a wonderfully beautiful body that’s dying to be heard. It’s time to let her sing.

Dedicated to Louise, Theresa, Gladys, Phyllis, Stella, Helen, Vicki, Lynnette, and Michelle.

On Being Four: What Active Counseling Taught me About Childhood Wounding

The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.
–Augustine of Hippo

Around the beginning of December 2014—somewhat consciously and somewhat not—Brendan and I began the process of healing my father wound. To say that experience has changed my life is an understatement of almost cosmic proportions; primarily, because I now believe myself to be a manifestation of Sovereign Feminine. Which is a radical and wholly new experience for me as a woman raised under patriarchy, because it means I have begun to reclaim my intuition. Something that was stolen from me as a child.

You see, a woman’s ability to trust her intuitive voice and be fully in her adult power is a dangerous threat to male dominance, so patriarchy keeps women locked in childhood by raping and beating their intuition out of them. Of course, patriarchy also traps men in childhood, beginning with the act of forcibly cutting off their foreskin and then progressively and methodically removing nearly all forms of loving, affirmative affection or validation. Because violent oppression is democratic like that.

For the last six weeks I have felt more powerful, grounded, and clear than ever before in my life. I make decisions, give voice to my grievances, and declare what I want with a confidence that I attribute solely to intuition and my novel ability to hear/trust what she says. Things that, had anyone asked me six months ago, I might have cited as benefits I could conceivably expect to arise as a result of such a healing. But certainly nothing I would have felt I deserved or was worthy to receive.

What I didn’t expect was the actual felt and embodied presence of my literal 4-year-old self.

Of course, the further I get on this journey, the more it makes perfect sense she would come to the forefront of my psyche: because I was 4 years old when my sexual abuse began. So, once I was able to touch that experience in a way that felt relevant to my adult self, once I could fully grieve the loss of what was taken from me, OF COURSE Little Chrissy would be more “here” to my mind and body. It made sense she would be at the surface as opposed to deep within my mind palace, hidden away where she had been safe and virtually unseen for the last 40 years.

Little Chrissy was present in my daily life and most of those ways were positive. I could feel her in how my playing with Avery changed because I could drop into it so much more easily, fluidly, and authentically. I made more funny character voices, readily joined and added to his stories, encouraged interchange in ways that hadn’t occurred to me before. There were times when I really felt like a little kid reborn and it was wonderful. I felt joyous and free to be silly, to dance, to be in my body.

Little Chrissy even got to have a wonderful cosmic experience on psychedelic mushrooms. As with the ecstasy, we set a strong, safe container appropriate for a Little and then proceeded to receive the mushrooms’ download. Little Chrissy was *totally* in her element because—as a divine and magical child presence—she intimately understood the mushrooms as well as what they had to say about where we come from, who we are. Being able to channel her fully while also communing with the mushrooms gave me powerful insight on what I’ve come to understand as the Universal Perspective.

A perspective that recognizes all life as equal and divine, filled with golden light and emanating from stardust. A perspective that allowed me to recognize Brendan and his soul as something I’d seen before, perhaps many times over the millenia, like commuters passing every day in a train station. Which explains why he has always felt like Home to me. That night, the divine in me recognized and resonated with the divine in him, and because of that I feel a little less alone on this planet. A little less identified with and clinging to the body I currently inhabit. A little less homesick.

There’s a lot more I’ll eventually share with you about what the mushrooms told and continue to tell me, about who I am and what’s happening to me as I continue the process of waking and reclaiming. And for now, this is enough. Suffice to say, I experienced Little Chrissy as a beautiful child, full of love, pure and divine; not yet injured, civilized, or abused. She is my lapis lazuli, my psyche’s most precious jewel.

Over the following week or so, I continued to feel her open loveliness, but then it began to change; I felt small, sad, scared, and vulnerable. Defensive; angry even. There was still something at work I couldn’t quite put a finger on, couldn’t locate fully in my body. Something was blocked and wasn’t budging no matter how much solo loving attention I tried to give it.

In addition, Brendan and I had to deal with the reality she didn’t want to have sex. Like *really* didn’t want to. He would kiss my neck and my body shriveled; I could feel my yoni clamp down/close up like a scared little oyster hiding in the corner. This was not the response I was accustomed to feeling when my sexy-hot husband kissed my neck, and I didn’t like it; I felt embarrassed and wholly unlike myself. I could feel my programmed inclination to bypass intuition and “just do it” sneaking up from behind.

But I couldn’t, not anymore. Intuition and Little Chrissy weren’t going to let that happen and, as a now-sovereign female, I had sworn to keep them safe, to believe what they told me and act upon it. Ten days into feeling like my body was working directly against us, we decided to set another ecstatic container with the express intent to Counsel on Parts, a powerful Holistic Peer Counseling technique.

Inner parts are those we feel inside. Similarly to many meditation practices, we can bring our awareness inside ourselves, witnessing what parts are there and what they want. We can even relate to each individual part as its own person, an approach that teaches us how to understand our internal world and which system(s) work best for us.

When we give our parts loving attention, we search for the Balance of Attention in order to bring about release. Remember that this process is neither linear nor especially predictable; our patterns tend to feel more like mazes, all twists and turns. As we learn to feel the Balance of Attention more acutely, we are better able to follow the pattern’s path and support its eventual release.

We were operating under the belief that if we held loving space for her and listened to what she had to say, she could feel sufficiently heard to stop interrupting us with the intensity that only an urgent 4-year-old can muster. We had already introduced Little Chrissy to both our adult bodies during the mushroom trip as a way to help her feel safe with us, to know we weren’t going to be “like the others”—that we had no intent to harm or scare her. Which was a critical step in our journey because at this point we knew the next ecstatic container would be specifically about sex.

Little Chrissy, as an internal Part of me, needed to experience us (that is, she and I) jointly having loving sex with Brendan as a contradiction to her lived experience 39 years ago. She needed to trust us in the present.

30 minutes after ingesting the ecstasy, I could feel Little Chrissy right up front in my psyche, where she stayed for about 45 minutes until she receded slightly, allowing me to experience a more integrated state. That is, I could still feel her, but I wasn’t “acting like a child” or trying to channel her directly. Brendan and I spent about three hours lovingly affirming who we were to one another, to our families, to our communities, and to the world. We were essentially lining our container with safety, love, intention, and acknowledgement—all things critical for the deep work we were about to undertake.

We then slowly started to have sex. I had been feeling something like mild abdominal gas for the past hour, which I’d attributed to either the drug or the snacks I’d eaten earlier. It was irritating, but nothing new to me as a lifelong sufferer of intestinal upset and certainly not something I considered stopping or slowing down for. But as he entered me, it got worse; it was a tight little knot right up inside the very core of my belly. It was deep and not moving like I’d expect gas to.

So, he got off and laid next to me. I put both my hands on my belly and began speaking directly to the knot. I told her I knew she was scared and that I was here to love her, to give her some attention. Brendan reiterated “This attention is for you, little one.” I told her that we needed to keep going and that yes, it was going to hurt, but I promised I would stop if she told me to. I asked her if she could trust me and, after a little bit, she said Yes, okay.

This time I got on top of Brendan and as he entered me, almost immediately I felt the knot seize up with pain. It was at the end of my vagina, right where it had always been. Where it had been for so long I had never questioned its presence. As I rubbed back and forth across the tip of his cock, I began to cry and then get angry. Angry. Angrier. The more I rubbed against that spot the more I cried and the more scared I got. I was able to stay there for about 90 seconds before pulling off and rolling over onto the bed.

I was shaking uncontrollably, my teeth chattering together like I was lying in snow. My whole abdomen was hot and tense. Brendan put his arms around me and held me, eventually putting his finger in between my teeth to stop the chattering. And then it happened: I was hit with a massive intuitive download and in an instant I knew the truth. I hadn’t just been molested as a child; I’d been raped. Repeatedly. With either penis, fingers, or object. Raped hard enough to wound, to leave that hard little knot.

As I lay there, sobbing, accepting what I had known-but-not-known my whole life, the wound began revealing itself to me, lighting up and getting hot so I could trace its outline. Its edges are jagged and sharp, like shards of glass. It looks like what I imagine a shotgun wound to the gut would: it spreads across my entire abdomen, all the way up my left side and into my armpit, and—most importantly—straight into my solar plexus, the seat of my intuition. And in that moment I was rocked by the cell-level understanding that The Affliction was a result of my having been raped.

For 31 years—since I first suffered The Affliction at age 12—she’d been trying to get my attention and I couldn’t understand her, couldn’t hear what she was saying. Because my intuition was broken, scarred; turned into a hard knot. And so she got disowned, left behind; alone and in the dark. No wonder I couldn’t stop shaking once I found her.

It didn’t stop there. Over the next two hours, my intuition showed me things about my family that directly contradicted my lived experience of them and what they had told me. I saw things they would *never* talk about. Things that would likely get me disowned if I spoke of them publicly. And I knew they were true; in my bones I fucking KNEW. During those two hours I remembered conversations I’d had with my mother over the years that never made sense, random things I’d overheard aunts and uncles saying, memories left in dark corners for decades that finally had the context they required to make sense.

It was like that scene in V for Vendetta when Inspector Finch asks Dominic whether knowing the truth would be worth the consequences. Because I clearly saw a chain of events, things that would otherwise have been deemed coincidence or laughably impossible, things that suddenly aligned with both my body’s intelligence and lived memories. I could see it…all of it, going back to my great-grandparents. My mother always said I remembered things nobody else could, and now I knew why. Someone had to remember, to be The Witness. That someone is me.

I’ve since received additional downloads that I’ll definitely be blogging about because WHOA AWESOME. I’ve also counseled extensively on what happened with both peers and my therapist. As I integrate all the aspects of being four—including the angry, wounded maiden and the divine star child—my understanding of who I am grows and becomes more defined. I see many things about what I’m here to do and how I might go about that.

What I specifically want to make a point of is this: there are parts inside each of us that need loving attention. Parts that may have been silenced decades ago. We may believe they have nothing to teach us, no wisdom to impart. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true because they do and they want to. If we can only be courageous enough to face them and hear their truth.

Anatomy of an Interlocking Pattern: My Side

Patterns develop around our responses to significant (usually traumatic) life occurrences and manifest as a recording that, when played, seems to temporarily take control of us. It’s important to remember that the pattern is not the person; it’s actually an external, rigid, repeating, non-survival value recording that opposes the flexible, creative, loving behavior of the rational, thinking human. Patterns can affect every aspect of our existence—mental, physical, spiritual, behavioral—and when re-stimulated or triggered, prevent any forward movement or progress. Patterns are all about the past. — taken from Nekole Shapiro’s Holistic Peer Counseling (HPC) curriculum 

The last week has been an exceptionally difficult one for my husband and I because we’ve been uncovering more information about our core pattern complexes. In truth, whenever this happens—and no, this isn’t the first time—it totally fucking sucks; it’s painful and embarrassing; I get sunk intermittently in my shame; I want to disappear, maybe even die in that childish way that yearns for release from the responsibility of living.

Both Brendan and I were born into dysfunctional families suffering at the intersection of rape, oppression, isolation, abuse, depression, and neglect; his significantly more so than mine. The scars we bear as children of these families makes it obscenely hard for us to prioritize care for ourselves, have healthy boundaries, trust others, trust our bodies, be parents, and maintain consistent, nourishing social interactions.

When we met, we had both done personal work including Landmark Education, anger management group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and embodiment work. By the time we decided to make a baby together 18 months later, we were committed to healing and re-parenting one another, an embodied birth, and raising our son in a way that was diametrically opposed to how we had been raised. We actually had no clue what we were in for when we made those commitments.

Patterns affect our inter-personal relationships all the time; in fact, it’s not uncommon to gravitate toward a relationship specifically because the other person’s patterns interlock with ours. — HPC curriculum

My mother was not adequately resourced when she gave birth to me. (I laugh even writing that because goddamn what an understatement.) My father kept her terrorized, abused, and isolated, which was pitifully easy given that she’d been brought up under the influence of a patriarchal church that taught her the man was in charge, taught her to honor and obey, taught her to be meek and never prideful. She thought all men were relatively honorable, upstanding men of the community like her conservative, wheat-farming father and her brothers.

As a result of her near-complete lack of support, she leaned on me more than was healthy for either one of us, especially after my baby sister was born when I was 2-1/2. I was her Big Girl; the reliable one, the helpful one, the one who learned to always make time and space for Mommy’s distress and pain. There was a lot of pain. Both she and I had to live with the consequences of her shameful marriage, his sexual abuse of me, his all-encompassing abuse of her, and his eventual abandonment of us when I was 5 for less-complicated pastures. We became emotionally enmeshed and fiercely co-dependent.

There was scant room for Little Chrissy’s pain, thoughts, dreams, or concerns. Because Mommy’s distress filled the room, sucked up all the air, and entertained no competitors—not even her daughters. I had no choice: I had to support her, had to supplant myself and keep her healthy because otherwise I would die or she would abandon me. She was my survival line and I loved her. After all, look how much she suffered just to keep her head up and food on the table; how hard it was for her to live with the daily shame of Going Back Home in disgrace after a violently failed marriage. Someone had to stand up for her.

As the years went by and my mother honed her Victim/Martyr patterns, I unconsciously began to hate and resent both her and her ever-present demands regarding who I should be and to whom I should give my attention. In fact, in addition to my growing perfectionism-bordering-on-OCPD, I developed an acute case of what I now know to be demand resistance. From Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control:

Somehow, “I want” turns into “I should.” In fact, the phrase “I want” is a rarity in their (the obsessive’s) thinking and their vocabulary. Instead of “I want to,” they usually experience and say “I ought to”, “I must,” or “I should.” Volition is replaced by obligation. […] This is a childhood safety-seeking maneuver that becomes ingrained in the obsessive’s character, a maneuver that comes to serve many motives:
  – People who need to be above reproach are often most comfortable when they feel their decisions/actions are being dictated by outside forces.
  – It’s harder to criticize someone who’s “only following orders,” as opposed to one doing something he initiated himself.

In the obsessive’s worldview, where conscientiousness is king, it’s better to be fulfilling one’s duty than satisfying one’s own needs. But the cost of unconsciously disowning one’s desires are high. […] When most of your activities feel like obligations, you can reach a point where nothing gives you pleasure, and life feels meaningless. You don’t feel like an active participant, but instead experience yourself as a passive recipient, grinding away at the obligations that are laid upon you. You may feel powerless; you may lack a clear, stable sense of self.

Without a clear identity, a solid sense of self, or a clear sense of what you want, you feel insubstantial, passive, and more vulnerable to external influences, especially the wishes of others. Because you feel (at an unconscious level) as if your sense of self can at any moment be overrun by more powerful outside forces, you are compelled to guard against people who seem strong or intrusive, or who get too close. […]

The obsessive learns that withholding gives them power, keeps them in control. “When I know somebody wants something from me, I don’t do it. It’s so automatic, it ends up being more important for me to hold back than to decide what I want. I balk at expectations simply because I perceive them as demands.

Demand resistance is closely connected with interpersonal control. First, it’s a way of safeguarding one’s fragile sense of self by refusing to be overpowered or controlled by others. Second, it is a way of reassuring oneself that one can have a subtle impact on—and control over—others by frustrating them.

This is exactly what I do to Brendan; it’s what I’ve done to him for the entirety of our six years together. Because (as the person I currently love and am beholden to the most) he represents Mother in my personal constellation. The problem is, Little Chrissy and her gang of feral compatriots don’t yet understand that we can make choices about who we help; that we now have tools and insight and loving compassion. That we now have an identity and a semi-solid sense of Self.

My side of the interlocking pattern is “IF I help you, I’m not going to do it unless you’re half-dead with need and bleeding out on the floor; because that’s the only way I’ll know you aren’t a threat.” Brendan’s side of the interlocking pattern (as I currently understand it) is “No one ever helps me because I don’t matter and am worth nothing except for what I give. So I will give until I’m dead.” See how nicely those fit together?

Brendan has pointed out facets of my pattern over the years, but because it’s SO core to who I am and permeates literally everything I touch, it’s been impossible for me to see in totality. More importantly, it’s a slippery fucker, needs to defend itself vigorously against attack, and the character of Brendan’s pattern allowed it to continue doing so.

The experience of falling into a pattern is generally unpleasant due to internal conflict and imbalance: while the pattern itself may be defensive, our psyches prefer to be rational and integrated. As a result, we may defend our patterned behaviors fiercely, which usually occurs because our psyches see no alternative and are deathly afraid to change

It’s important to remember that it is the hardest to see someone else’s pattern clearly when that pattern is triggering our own. — HPC curriculum

My pattern of demand resistance has been particularly hurtful and destructive toward Brendan because he is the primary parent to our 4-year-old son. And as any parent whose paying attention knows, the primary parent requires a LOT of support and help; in fact, I theoretically believe the majority of any family’s resources should be going to make that parent’s life easier because there is NOTHING in this world so hard as giving loving attention to a small child for 10–12 hours a day. Nothing.

But all the theory in the world hadn’t succeeded in making traction on loosening my patterned resistance to helping him any more than was required or convenient for me. I bring home a regular paycheck, help out with household chores, do the evening/bedtime routine, and take point with Avery on the weekends. Beyond that I get obstinate. Withholding. Resistant. In fact, I’ve been listening to him report an ever-increasing need for time and resources during the day for well over a year. Heard him say that he’s struggling specifically with X, Y, or Z.

I have offered my loving attention and given him heartfelt words of understanding. I have not offered concrete acts of support beyond what I already perform. I have watched his health and physical well-being deteriorate; watched his sleep suffer; watched his frustration rise. And I have waited. Resisted. Turned away.

I say these things not to beat myself up publicly, but to call attention to something I perceive is a fairly common pattern among women raised under patriarchy. And while our situation with Brendan playing the “mom at home” role and myself playing the “dad at the office” role isn’t conventional, it doesn’t really matter. Because we didn’t need to be parents for this pattern to show up in our lives. I certainly didn’t; it was present in my first, childless marriage too. Of course, the being parents part certainly intensifies the need and tightens the spiraling of our interlocked patterns, but they would have been here regardless.

It’s times like this past weekend—when we are furthest apart, when “I hate you” has been uttered—that I’m most grateful for our HPC community and the tools we’ve developed through doing this work. Because it means we can trust in the Balance of Attention and continue to love one another even as we hate the patterns; even if that love is only a single thread stretched thin between us, threatening to snap.

Fuck These Rose-colored Glasses

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.