I don’t know…

Lately, I just don’t.

I’ve been in an odd place these last several months; gearing up for some intensive inner work, I think.  There’s a feeling of something deep inside clawing its way to the surface – or rather, the skin of the onion is peeling away, and whatever’s hiding at the center is getting closer.

This was brought to light the other day while reading the latest installment of Michael J. Melville’s blog Ancient Whiteagle Wisdom.  Melville talks about dealing with the Inner Critic.    As the child of an emotionally abusive and fragile alcoholic father suffering from PTSD, this is an entity with which I am quite familiar.  The Inner Critic was always there, checking my responses, dogging my every step lest I fall out of line and set the Old Man off.

With him, it wasn’t so much the threat of physical violence as it was the things he’d say to my Mother and me, the way he’d treat us when he was drunk, and withdraw in shame once he sobered up.   From the time I was a child, there were constant arguments and emotionally charged stand-offs between the two of us.

At the time, of course, I was unequipped to see these things as a disease, and so as not to push him, I developed a highly tuned survival mechanism.  I could tell from the way he said good morning (or didn’t), the look on his face, the way he walked, whether or not he had his morning coffee, what kind of mood he was in – when the sea is rough, you learn to navigate quickly, or you sink.

Home life was an almost continual training ground for these survival instincts.  I was a student in an emotional dojo, pitting myself against a man who, although loving us in his own way, lashed out constantly from a place of fear and anguish.

Years later that training remains mostly intact.  And while there may have been times when it’s proven itself invaluable, there have been many more times when it’s been the source of at best annoying, at worst almost crippling, false-positives.

Often (especially in the presence of Elders) I find myself scanning the crowd for a reaction.  Sometimes this comes dangerously close to interfering with ceremony.  Thankfully, I was given a bit of advice by a teacher several years ago that echoes through everything I do to this day:

“We do nothing for show; and we do nothing TO show.”

In times of conflict, I hear these words, and remember what it is that brought me here.

The path we walk is sometimes a difficult one.  Follow it deeply enough, and we’ll  end up facing our shadow. How we react will govern the course of our actions for the rest of our lives.

We do this because we must.

We do this because the work demands it.

We do this that we might become an example to those embarking on a similar journey. . .

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11 Responses to “I don’t know…”

  1. The shadows thrown by violence can be deep and dark, indeed. That seems even more true when the violence happened in childhood. That said, I have noticed your courage in walking your path – no easy task. I have also seen your determination to reject the fear and violence you were raised with. I wonder whether others have noticed this as well. I also wonder whether those around you have noticed the ways you have responded to that violence by cultivating kindness and compassion.

    I am looking forward to hear of your further growth and journeys.

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  2. Thank you, Michael. Your blog really hit home. Many years ago, when I still wasn’t ready to go there yet, I was handed a copy of Janet Woititz’s book Adult Children of Alcoholics…which I eventually handed back unread.

    After reading your post, I felt the spiritual combat boot up my backside, and realized that it’s time I got to work.

    Thanks for the kickstart.

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  3. Wow Ben ! Sounds like my dad . And it’s true about survival instincts,still using them today . Walking on egg shells not knowing how he is going to be when he gets home . Or what will set him off don’t wish that on anyone . Put it this way( children should be seen not heard.) Put the one thing that still hurts when he would come in our room drunk and say he wished we weren’t born and wish we would die. When we where sleeping he thought we where sleeping . Now he is always in pain with his knees and a heart problems and other things. So I believe he is getting the pain he gave us . But now he is not the same person ? It’s amazing how old age changes a person . Love your writing Ben thanks

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    • Thank you, Michelle.

      Yeah, there are a lot of us out there. Which means it’s up to us to break the cycle of disease by healing ourselves. Then hopefully we can pay some forgiveness and love backwards to help ease their pain a bit. Maybe give them the courage to face their own darkness. . .

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  4. Ben, your words are a blessing. Certainly not to take away from your experience, but I believe we all have our scars from childhood. To each of us, the situation we face at a young age can be daunting at best. The lessons we take from these experiences are often not realized for many years. I had a situation where my father suffered from lung cancer. When the pain grew too intense, he wrote a letter to each of us, went into the basement and shot himself. To my horror, I was the one who found him. It took many years to pass before I could see the pain he faced, and the honor and integrity of his actions. While I certainly would not wish this experience on anyone, for me it was in its own way a blessing. For me, the pain of childhood was in fact the cauldron of wisdom. I for one am still dipping my ladle into the lessons of this time even to this day. Bless you, my brother, for your words of wisdom spoken from the heart.

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  5. And you for yours, Hugh…

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  6. Just had to come take a look at another of your writings. You have been kind enough to ‘follow’ my efforts, I am going to reciprocate. I have been chewing on a ‘theory’ for some years, and have only shared it with a couple of VERY close, trusted fellow (working) intuitives. I am being pushed to offer it up for consideration by all those who have stories like yours. Including myself, by the way. Thank you for being brave enough to stand in the Truth of who you are.

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    • And thank you for your kind words. There are a lot of us out here on the path, I think. What we couldn’t learn by positive example, we learned by negative.

      Still, we manage to plow the dark stuff into the soil of who we are and grow from it.

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  7. This was a great article….I too struggle with ingrained patterns that are hard to shake, I am contanstly having to check myself and my thinking or I run amok…It is easy to fall back in old patterns.

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