So, another deep dive into my psyche compliments of my current psychologist/spiritual director/life coach, Kevin Hearne. As I progress in my journey through Shattered, which I am thoroughly enjoying, he throws in a monologue on the realities of parental love, or lack thereof. Deep shit for sure. And a topic that pushes every button I have. Let's review the lessons he's offering and then examine them one by one. First, he says that there is no power that can force someone to love another. True enough. Second, he says that it is by degrees of love that we wither or bloom... In both the giving and receiving. Lastly, he cautions that we should not torture ourselves with what might have been. These passages actually come in reverse order from what I'm describing, but hopefully Mr. Hearne won't be offended by the liberties I'm taking in analyzing his profound prose.
The first contention (I feel like I'm starting a debate round with my son) is that there is no power that can force someone to love us. To be precise, he says that there is no power that is able to force one to love another, so it would also stand to reason that there is no power that can force us to love someone we don’t. All of this is true in my experience and unutterably sad. I spent the majority of my life trying to make my mother love me, just as Granuaile seeks her father's love in the book, with similarly ineffective results. I had many a therapist explain to me that one cannot get blood from a stone, or words to that effect. But that sure as shit didn't keep me from trying. And from bashing my head against that stone over and over. And, to be precise again, because precision is important, there was plenty of blood that came from that particular stone. Unfortunately, it was all mine.
At this point in the process, I have come to believe, or perhaps chosen to believe (and I'm not sure it matters, as it is now my reality) that my mother was incapable of loving me. I choose to believe this partially because there is evidence to support this as truth--I was told by a qualified professional that my mother suffered from narcissistic personality disorder--and partially because I have learned over time that I am worthy of love, especially my mother's. As a mother myself, I know that love for our children really is an instinctual tendency, and it must be overcome by nurture, in whatever nasty way that life has of disrupting our natural tendencies toward love and kindness and generosity, although this is the topic for another post. In any case, for my mother, and for me, nurture trumped nature and the woman simply did not love me, and absolutely nothing I ever did or said made the slightest difference at all. I had no power to make her love me, despite my focusing my not-inconsequential efforts toward that end.
Which leads to contention number two from Dr. Hearne, that it is by degrees of love, given or withheld, that influences whether we go toward the light or away from it. I believe this to be true as well. I have long regarded my mother and her lack of love for me as my shadow teacher. I learned so very much from her about how not to behave and how not to live. As a parent, I've been able to follow a fairly clear path just by thinking, what would my mother do, and then doing the opposite of that. It seems to be working, but check back with me in about ten to fifteen years or so, and I'll let you know if we've succeeded in raising happy, well-adjusted and contributing members of society who still love their parents. Fingers crossed!
My mother and her feelings for me certainly shaped me more than any other single aspect of my life. For years it was all about proving myself to her, trying to earn her attention and respect, all to no avail. Then it was about saying the hell with her, and forging my own path regardless of her judgment on the subject. The only issue with option two was that I continued to have to listen to her criticism and survive her attempts to undermine my confidence at every opportunity. Which detracted from my efforts to create the life I wanted, although I didn't realize it at the time. So while I definitely didn't wither, neither did I bloom as fully as I might have. Which leads to point number three.
Kevin Hearne tells us, through the voice of an Indian deity, no less, that we should avoid torturing ourselves with fantasies of what might have been. He’s right, of course, as this kind of fantasizing is nothing but a time thief, which can only lead to bitterness and anger. But wow, it's hard not to go there sometimes, especially when I'm feeling vulnerable for whatever reason. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from thinking about how different my life would have been if my mother hadn't been a narcissist. Of how things might have felt if my parents had provided anything more than financial support to my brother and me. How different my choices might have been if I'd basked in the glow of knowing that no matter what, I was loved and valued for who I was, just because I am here on this earth and I was born to parents who loved me for me. Nope, not going there at all.
And here's why, and it's not just because Kevin Hearne thinks it's a good idea, even though it doesn't hurt to be reminded of this truth from time to time as I consume my fantasy. It's because I love who I am, and I appreciate that it is the totality of my past experiences that have gotten me here. I have no idea who I would be if I hadn't been formed in the crucible of my mother's indifference and distain. I might have had a better relationship with my brother, which would be wonderful, but I might not be married to my husband or have the kids I have. I might not have the friendships that I do with women who have known me my whole life and who continue to walk the journey with me now. Or the friends from my more recent past, to whom I was attracted and was attractive to as the person I am today. Who knows who I would be if the past were not how it was.
So score three for Dr. Hearne, and I'll let him know he can send me the bill for the extremely productive therapy session I received while reading his excellent book. And score another for truth in fantasy, as I continue to find so many rich veins of gold to mine for depth and profundity as I am entertained and diverted from the heavier aspects of life.