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permission to heal

April 12, 2011

I’ve been thinking about Literata’s comment, and then I began reading The Woman in the Story: Writing Memorable Female Characters by Helen Jacey, and I had an epiphany. I think I’ve been fixated on nurturing, on finding a proxy for the mothering I did not receive, but what I actually need is healing.

Perhaps nurturing is best suited for lopsided power dynamics, such as parents and children. It now seems to me that nurturing is top-down, and cannot be democratic — it is explicitly an authority figure acting on a dependent.

I’ve spent my life rejecting that power dynamic, and seeking out peer-to-peer, collaborative relationships. I help you, and you help me, and/or each of us help others, but we are all equals. We all matter. No one is more important than any other one.

Healing, in my new understanding, may utilize a catalyst or a facilitator, but is fundamentally something we do ourselves, something that wells up from our inner source(s). It cannot be done to you; you co-create your own healing, or nothing happens.

Five months ago, I read something that really resonated with me, and I’ve thought of it often, but today I think I understand it in a whole new way. John Dugdale, a photographer who went blind in mid-life, but remained a photographer, said:

“If you think you’re gonna be the person you were before tragedy struck — internally or externally — it’s impossible. Once you pass through that fire, you’ve been smelted. You’re gonna come out gold on the other side, or you’re not gonna come out at all.”

Ereshkigal remains over my shoulder, so I’ve been mindfully redesigning my life, but now I realize that perhaps I need to truly start from scratch, and build outward from my core. That old perceptions are no longer serving me, and I need to boldly reimagine what is possible. That I am no longer bound by what I used to wish for. My past has passed, and I have walked through the doorway of transformation. I have new needs and desires, that will take exploring and experimenting and experiencing to discover.

So perhaps Laima has been patiently waiting for me to rediscover her as my sister, as my friend.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2011 20:15

    Hmmm. Theda Skocpol theorizes (in Protecting Soldiers and Mothers) that states can be maternal or paternal – maternal states tend to be welfare states where funding is given to specific classes of people (she argues that, between the end of the Civil War and the 1920s, the US gave money to soldiers and to mothers – classes within society. It could be possible for a maternal state to give money to the meta-class of citizens, though) without worrying about “worthiness”; paternal states, if they provide support for anyone, do so through a calculation of worthiness. I think. I’ve read her book a couple of times, and I’m still not entirely convinced I understood her point. So, perhaps you are correct – parental relationships work well in lopsided power structures, between parents and children, between states and citizens, and etc. I don’t know that this helps with your process of healing or connecting with Laima, but your discussion of power relationships triggered it.

    • April 13, 2011 12:06

      Mike, I have trouble depersonalizing ideas about parents and children, and the attendant power dynamics, but that book sounds interesting, and maybe I would learn something that would help me see things differently.

      Mostly I think I need to change my perception of myself so that I am no longer a child with unmet needs, but am an adult who furnishes her own needs, and does not rely on authority figures to provide.

  2. April 13, 2011 07:09

    Ooh, Mike, I’m going to have to look that up!

    M, I like your distinction between nurturing and healing. Nurturing can set the stage for healing, but it’s not a prerequisite. I think that I’d restate the distinction in terms of outside-in and inside-out, though. Nurturing usually happens in a lopsided power situation because the nurturer is drawing on a well or reservoir of some kind, and usually, those resources are available to the person with more power (the resources and the power are a feedback loop of causation). But occasionally the person with less power, overall, can have more specific resources in a particular situation. Regardless, nurturing is something offered from the outside, whereas I think you’re absolutely right that healing has to come from within. It’s also worth noticing that nurturing can be counterproductive when it doesn’t support real healing – or even puts off the development of internal healing.

    My mental image is of the difference between a bandage – applied from the outside – and the kind of growing new tissue and skin – from the inside – in healing a physical wound.

    • April 13, 2011 12:14

      Literata, you’re absolutely right about outside-in and inside-out! I was struggling with how to describe what I pictured in my mind’s eye, and that metaphor is much clearer. This is still a very new issue for me, so other perspectives are useful in deepening my understanding.

      I agree that nurturing can sometimes hinder true healing. And I think I’ve sought bandages for my symptoms when what I really needed was to excavate the festering wound to find the underlying problem, and do the hard work of healing it. But I got there in the end.

      • April 13, 2011 12:28

        I’m glad the metaphor helps! I thought it was also appropriate because deep wounds, especially ones that have to be cleaned out, have a long healing process that is irritating and gradual. And I know I have some psychological “scars” that are a lot like real scars: they aren’t exactly like what would have been there without the wound, they’re sometimes tight or pull in the wrong directions, but they’re not necessarily permanently disabling, and they get better, to a certain extent, with exercise.

        I think your responses to Mike and my previous comment are right on, too, in that you don’t even have to see yourself as providing your own nurturing. You can step aside from the adult-child dynamic entirely, if you want. (Ever notice how the men’s archetypes allow them to step aside from that dynamic, but the maiden/mother/crone doesn’t really, or at least not until the “crone” stage?) You can be an adult, and yes, you nurture yourself, and you heal, but you don’t have to be a child too. (Yes, yes, “inner child,” and subconscious and all that still applies – but it doesn’t have to be the way you conceive of yourself right now.)

  3. April 16, 2011 09:29

    I should say that most of the Skocpol is fairly heavy poli-sci/poli-history, and quite dense. I’m not suggesting that you can’t handle it, because a) that would be rude and b) almost certainly untrue. I’m just ensuring that I have not mis-characterized the book. It’s about the creation of an American welfare state, not about parenting, per se.

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