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. . .