I smile as I realize the depths of Mom issues in my life, and I suppose in the lives of all of us humans. After nine years of Pathwork, including much mother work, this most recent bubbling up of my Mom bonding patterns came from Pat’s and my recent reading of sections from Moseley’s Shadow Side of Intimate Relationships, from our many dialogues, and then yesterday it came all the way to center stage at an Ira-Progoff-type Journal Writing group to which Pat and I belong. It felt to be a profound felt experience giving great clarity to entire areas of my life.
Where I ended up yesterday after these series of experiences in recent days is seeing that my relationship with Mom was characterized by lack of emotional, physical or intellectual intimacy, few common interests, and connecting by the praise or lack of praise for what I did or did not do. A rule I picked up was that it was wrong to hurt another, especially Mom, even if it meant being untrue to oneself. In this world of my early years, I picked up a safe and rewarding life strategy of living privately, thoroughly engaged in my sandbox of toys and interests. I imagine many grew up this way in the fifties, but I came to see how profoundly these bonding patterns and techniques for living impacted my relationship with others, and especially my relationship with those closest to me. “Intimate privacy” became my way of being in the world. And it was safe and satisfying. To a point.
In my relationship with women, beginning with my wife, I saw that I gave little emphasis to common interests and to intellectual and emotional connection. My wife and I would participate in church and family activities together, but not really engage deeply with each other on anything that was most alive in either of us. I simply did not know this territory of intimacy, this dimension to living. No one was to blame, not Mom, certainly not my wife, nor even myself. It just was.
During most of my married life my private time was full as I engaged with work, church, building projects, hobbies, books and countless other activities. And these are what enlivened me. I had recreated my childhood with Mom. It is not that I married my “Mom,” but rather that I did not know any other way to relate other than in this pattern I picked up as a child. And I did not recognize this, like a fish not feeling water in which it swims. I could survive and enjoy life in my own world. I was happy. But I came to see that while this was satisfying, it was not thriving. There had to be more, or so my soul seemed to say.
These solo living patterns followed me into other relationships, though unconsciously, and only now am I fortunately finding common interests and intellectual intimacy with Pat and my children. Just now am I beginning to see all I have missed in my solo living strategies. Yet, while I am engaging intellectually, the emotional intimacy is a bit off in the future yet. But at least I am bringing awareness to this feeling aspect of my life.
The “feeling connection” is my edge, and what I see is a need to do some re-parenting of my inner child so that he can grow up and mature emotionally, to catch up with my intellectual and physical sides. Again I can smile as I see my inner child’s emotional world: fear, reacting, withdrawing, getting mad, or whatever. I can affirm his feelings and help him understand beliefs and life conclusions that have caused him to fear or react. I can help him discover that many of these life-long beliefs and strategies leading to painful feelings are wrong and then help him to discover the truth about life. All this is Pathwork 101, of course, but it is where I am, at least in some important areas of my life.
And the challenge will be living into and awakening these emotional areas of my life. Right now my life is rich in many areas, even in rich friendships, but so many of these areas have intellectual bents. This is the territory I know. It is safe. It is as if my inner child comes down and sees all the presents under the Christmas tree. And while he is excited about all the presents around the tree, he cannot open and really savor all these presents. He will have to choose.
The temptation is for him to choose the intellectual types of activities and “toys” he has come to enjoy so much, but the more challenging and advanced “toys,” the ones that will engage him in his feelings and require emotional intimacy of him, could get left behind. In my re-parenting job I intend to lead him in a more balanced approach to life. It may be hard, but my adult self knows that the returns are greatest from emotional growth and development. For here is where life climaxes in its giving and receiving of Love. Living and Feeling are one.
This will be new for my younger self in many ways. And the path is more risky and treacherous because of this inner child’s lack of experience in these feeling domains. But I feel a longing and sense that this is the direction being called out of me at this time, late as it is. Late? Forget that, Gary, you are where you are at just the right time, and can celebrate these new ventures of discovering feelings that are alive deep in your soul and that are just waiting to come forth and connect with Life and others.