Saturday, January 12, 2013

In Defense

Here's the latest video from my friend Ben Ralston:

How to Be Love

It ties very directly to recent realizations of my own.

First of all, it has come to my attention that the last time I actually had a place where I lived by myself for any significant period of time was when I was in Rockville, MD between, 2004 and 2005. I had just come off of sea duty, which meant I had been living in very close quarters with other people, a lot of other people, for several months at a time. I'd also lived with a couple of boyfriends during those years, but that was at least somewhat better because it was only one other person sharing my shore-based living quarters rather than 60 (as was the number of other women who typically lived with me in the berthing areas on board the ship, and then there were the approximately 5940 other people on board when the ship was "fully deployed").

However, because I was committed to a spiritual practice that encouraged communal living and because one of my female co-workers proposed the idea of our sharing a place together, I only stayed in that apartment in Rockville by myself for about a year, the term of the lease, before getting an apartment with the woman from work, and then we moved again into a house. It was not too long after that before her boyfriend started to live with us as well, or, at least, he stayed over enough to almost qualify as another housemate, even though he did not contribute (as far as I knew) to the rent or utility expenses.

I won't go into detail about all of the other living situations I was in over the next six years or so, but will simply say, I have yet to have my own apartment again, completely by myself. Furthermore, one of the motivations for my wanting to leave Maryland and ride my bicycle across the country was because I had become quite tired of having to live with other people, very, very tired in fact. (Again, I won't go into all the details, but as much as I have tried to "rise to the challenge", on a deep level, it's kind of been hell for me, emotionally and psychologically. Why else would being on the road, on my bicycle, living in the woods if necessary, be so much more appealing?!)

However, I grew up living with my mother, day in and day out. Our lives were "enmeshed" emotionally and pscyhologically. I was in no position to assert my own needs for personal space or even personal boundaries. I adapted myself to that experience and, in many ways, I have been adapting myself ever since.  Not that this is a unique experience for me. I totally get the fact that other people have also had to live in the company of other people maybe for most of their lives, and maybe they are okay with it, maybe they even prefer it, or maybe they have disliked it as much as I have. We live in a very complex and increasingly crowded world, so being able to Be Alone and Just Be may be becoming even more of a luxury. Nevertheless, it is a luxury that I am beginning to realize I need to figure out a way to afford myself, because, there is a part of me that has stayed "on the defensive" all this time, and I do not want to stay that way for the rest of my life.

In re-reading Invisible Partners by John Sanford, I have come across this particular passage and I had to stop and do some "home work" on it:

P45, para 4 - "The animus [a woman's "inner man"] often keeps other people from reaching and experiencing the warm, feeling side of a woman because they cannot get through the animus and his opinions. Children with such a woman for a mother feel deprived of their mother's affection because they keep coming up against the animus.  She comes across to them as a hard disciplinarian, and the critical, judgmental attitudes of the animus effectively shut them out from her tenderness and affection.  (The situation is exacerbated when the father has relinquished the masculine role of disciplinarian and forced the mother to assume this role in the family.) It is not that the mother does not have warm feelings for her children; they are there, but the children do not receive them because the animus blocks them.  Such women may appear hard and steely, and other people may be leery of them, for their animus can wound; however, strangely enough, they themselves easily get their feelings (p. 46, para 1) hurt, and when this happens they are terribly injured and bewildered and do not understand why other people do not love them..."

Although I read this book for the first time in my late 20's and got a lot out of it then, now, almost 20 years later, I am realizing other things as well.

First of all, and this has actually been part of my self-awareness for a long time, I know that I have had to "be the man" in my own life, even from the time I was a young child.

To begin, my father was a long-haul truck driver, which meant he was not at home very much. (In that case, as Sanford suggests, he was not there to play the disciplining role in the family, although I can see now that my mother was very much an "animus driven" woman herself, with or without my father's presence.) Once my mother divorced my father and especially after my sisters went to college, I was left to become the "opposite" of my mother in terms of the "masculine/feminine" polarity that tends to emerge in very close interpersonal relationships between single children being raise by single parents. This is especially true when those single parents have mental illnesses that often prevent them from developing healthy, functional, interpersonal relationships with men or women their own age. Given the child's natural dependency on the parent, they are ready servants to the parent's emotional needs.

I can't find the source right now, but I know I have read somewhere that children who are the same sex as their single parents very often polarize to the opposite role; i.e. boys with single fathers will polarize towards the feminine and girls with single mothers will polarize towards the masculine. This happens in part because of the emotional neediness of the parent when they are not able to get those needs met with men or women their own age, or, possibly even from a spouse who is physically present but not emotionally available to them. Regardless of the source, I know the reading stuck with me because I easily recognized that was exactly what had happened to me, and I have since observed this to be the case with others as well.

(As another note though: Opposite sexed children who share this kind of emotionally codependent relationship with a single parent are also at risk as the surest way to keep the child in the relationship with the parent is for the parent to make sure the child never matures enough to have a close relationship with any other adult; i.e. an adult peer. And it is quite easy to prevent that not expecting it. In such cases, the children instead remain a "Mama's Boy" or a "Daddy's Girl", and may not ever establish truly intimate ties with their spouses because, should there be challenges that demand growth, they can always return to the "unconditional" but also unhealthy and controlling love of the parent.)

Having started in ernest when I was 10 years old, the masculine patterning I developed in relationship with my mother was well established by the time I was in college. Furthermore, given my mother's paranoia and her keeping me from socializing normally with my peers, roughly from age 7-16, I entered college with even more naivete about men than most. Yes I was of "legal age" to have relationships, even sexual relationships, but I was not emotionally prepared for all of that, and I feel now my "animus", my "inner man", became a very significant part of my life in part to Protect Me, to Protect my still very vulnerable emotional core from the inevitable trauma so often associated with intense emotional-sexual relating. Truth is, my animus became active to Protect my vulnerable psyche From My Own Mother way before I set foot on the college campus, and without my father's presence in my life to protect me from her or from other men who may not have had my best interests at heart, again, I was left to figure out ways to protect myself.

But, I wonder, am I really that different from so many other women in the world, or just a more intense case, skewed somewhat towards one end of the continuum because of my more challenging relationships with my mentally ill mother and absent father? In other words, my "animus" has become even more developed as my Protector than for other women?

If you were to look at the previous writings in this blog, the defense is also there. In much of what I have written I am providing a defense against Unconscious Relating. For instance, in the
"The Biology of 'Omnipotence'" I am defending myself against being seen as Only a "Mother/Woman"; i.e. a perpetual Source of love and nurturance for a man that he may want to control for his own purposes without recognizing that, as a "Woman/Woman", I have love needs of my own; and that, in that case, I need him to be a "man" with me - an equal who can reciprocate love and not just a dependent "boy". In "Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love...", I am also defending against the unreasonable expectations that often come when people are seeking "romantic love" partners. I do not want to be seen as "The Goddess" or "The Witch" - I just want to be seen for who I am.

With regards to Ben's video, how often are we allowed to really "connect with ourselves"? To connect with that love-core of our being so that we can also express that more fully moment to moment and in relationship with others? If we are being constantly bombarded by others "projections" and expectations, often irrational and unreasonable, if we never have a "safe space" where we can go regularly just to be alone with ourselves, to be at peace with ourselves, to meditate through the various moments and activities of our lives without the persistent distraction or demand of others, then how much more difficult is it to get to that Feeling of Being Love that he is talking about? How often can we carry out the normal activities of our days as a moment-to-moment Meditation of Ourselves as Love rather than a "performance" for others to observe and possibly judge or criticize?

The problem is, most of what people have been seeing of "who I am" over the past 20+ years has been heavily shadowed by my animus: My inner masculine is fairly quick to come to the front should there be any threat to my heart. Sometimes I can keep "him" at bay, and sometimes I cannot.  And given that I have not even been able to relax out of that completely, even in my own living space; i.e. in what should be the physical and emotional privacy and safety of my own home, then it is pretty much who I am perceived to be, all of the time.

But it is not All of who I am, and it is certainly not expressing the depth or warmth of my feminine core. And, I am beginning to realize that is not only a loss for me, it is a loss for those I care about as well.

Consequently, in the next year or so, I am going to put out the very clear intention that I be able to find a suitable living situation where I can actually live (and afford to live) By My Self for a while, even for a long while. I have a feeling, at this point in my life, if I am given the option to relax those defensive masculine patterns consistently, at least in my own home, it will also help me to relax those patterns in relationship with others outside of my own home as well. I do not want my animus to prevent or block others from experiencing the love and warmth that I know is in me.

In the mean time, I will once again highly, highly recommend Invisible Partners to anyone who is interested in following along with me on this part of my "inner journeying".

Oh, and for all of you men out there, be advised: Your "inner woman", or "anima", functions in very much the same way as the animus in a woman, in that she can undermine your masculine core if you let her rule your life, especially in your "defense". I will be writing more about that in future blogs as I continue my re-reading and reviewing of Invisible Partners.