Into the Heart and Family
Shit I Have Noticed, Two
This one has to do with the heart and with family.
Heart here meaning not just the physical organ, but the whole metaphoric and energetic construct of the heart – the heart complex, we can call it. And it is, indeed, complex. I’ll not be able to unravel much of the complexity here, nor am I quite arrogant enough to believe that I could, singlehandedly, describe the tangle of the human heart. I will stick to aspects of what I have observed and to some of the techniques I have been called on to use. Bear with me: this might be a rambly journey.
When approaching someone’s heart, I am always looking at the particular ways that this person has been separated from the bone-deep knowledge of their love-worthiness, their self-consideration, and their belief in their right to be here on this Earth in this particular body with all of their needs met. We come into this world fire-new and looking with an open heart for the ways that we can connect with love. The deal is, though, that each family has its rules around what gets love. We spend our childhoods learning the love rules of our family, and the rest of our lives trying to have relationships built on these foundations, and possibly, if we are lucky, unravelling these rules.
I can hear mutterings about unconditional love here, and I want to say that unconditional love is a great thing to aspire to, but a really, really hard thing to achieve. We all have conditions on how we express and receive love, and we teach them to those around us who want to be close to us, and most especially to our children. For example, I had post-partum depression (then undiagnosed) that spiked in intensity in the second trimester of my second pregnancy. One of the ways that it manifested was intense irritation, and one of my irritation triggers was being touched. I had a toddler at the time. You can see what’s coming, right? It took not very long for me to get “touched out” and for me to snatch at that little hand so that the touching would stop. My daughter learned to be cautious about approaching me to touch and cuddle, stopping to ask permission. This was not how I wanted it, deep down in the place where I longed to be an unconditionally loving, open, available parent, but I was going to explode (and did, repeatedly, explode) if I got touched even one more time. I grieved and blamed myself in unhelpful ways, but I still had to stop that small hand. And time being time, it marches on. So though I have repaired much of my loving, physical connection with that now not-so-small daughter, I can’t go back and have those moments not happen. She carries this in whatever way that the rule about love-touches was laid down in her emotional-energetic-body-mind. There ARE ways that the effects can be mitigated (this is, of course, where I work), but the person carrying the rules must be willing to look at the underlying or inherited love-rules.
The love allocation rules in each particular family arose long before we got here. I read an article recently via Facebook (so it must be true) that ancestral memories can be passed down for 12 generations. I believe that numbers like this behave like numbers in medieval texts where, when it is said that there were a hundred hundred soldiers storming the castle walls, what is meant is an impressively uncountable number. So it is with the 12 generations of ancestors. It doesn’t matter if it’s 12 or 5 or 17 – for us who really know little that happened before our grandparents, and who live in a world without deep and long family storytelling, even 3 generations is beyond the bend of time in a place where we cannot catch the truth of how it was to be that particular person in our lineage. And yet, it matters greatly what happened to that person and how they treated the next person down the family line because here we are, still bearing at least some of the weight of their trauma.
Instead of talking theory for pages and pages, I’m going to make someone up here. I am going to call her Jewel.
When Jewel was in her mid-twenties, she started to realize that she was disappearing in every relationship that she ended up in, but she didn’t really know how to fix it. I really do mean it like it sounds: ENDED UP in relationships. That’s how it was for her – she did not consciously choose the next relationship, she would just kind of become aware one day that she was in another more-than-slightly bonkers relationship with a man. And then she would drift out of that one and into another one, because there was always, always another one waiting just right there to fall in with (there isn’t a word missing, I really mean “fall in with,” not “fall in love with”). It did not occur to her to maintain space around her heart for her, or that she herself could be at the centre of her own heart, or that she had any kind of right to be with someone who valued her heart and worked to make it sing its own song.
Well, Jewel’s mom, Evelyn, came from English parents who left Europe decorously after the Second World War when Evelyn was four. Evelyn’s parents were well off, and had lived in comfort before the war and had never really believed, even when the bombing was at its thickest, that their life would not go back to normal afterwards. Except that somehow, it didn’t. Evelyn’s mom, Catherine, had witnessed her brother’s brutal beating by a soldier while she was pregnant with Evelyn and had never been able to speak about it then or afterwards. She was constantly in a state of panic about her family, but she was puzzled by the panic. When her husband suggested that they move to Canada, she agreed that a change of scene might be good, even though the thought of grizzly bears froze her heart. Victoria, BC was English enough that she felt at home, though the wild spaces were too close and too large. She retreated further and further into herself and her worries as she aged.
Evelyn’s dad, Henry, went through the war pretending that it wasn’t happening. He had been a merchant before the war and had carried on buying and selling whatever he could get his hands on. He spoke over people and pushed them around. He was hardly ever home. It was easier to be out of the house than to be constantly worried over by Catherine. It was into this that Evelyn was born: absent, bullying father, panic-paralysed mother. No one talked about feelings, and dark things, like sex, were only hinted at, or turned up in grotesque jokes when her dad came home drunk.
Jewel’s paternal grandfather, Franz, was an academic who left Germany in the early 1930s for England, and ultimately Canada, when the political climate began to alarm him. After WWII was over, and the details of the Holocaust began to emerge, he was overcome by complicated feelings of shame and relief and a belief that he could no longer ground himself in his German identity. He became untethered, living more and more in his research.
Once in Canada, Franz met and married Mary, an Irishwoman who had come to Canada five years before to marry a man that she had never met: an acquaintance of a family friend, a prospector who wanted a wife. The prospector went off to the Yukon shortly after they were married, and died in an accident, but not before he had raped Mary one night while he was drunk. She had no one to turn to after this, and thanked God that at least she was not pregnant. She found work in Victoria as a maid and tried to forget the rape. Franz, who was always buried in his books and only half paid attention to anything mundane, was a great relief to her. Their living was secure, though Mary didn’t really bother to understand what he did. Intimacy for them was no pleasure. They had one child, Owen, who grew up silent and bookish. His parents rarely touched him, as they rarely touched each other.
Owen and Evelyn met at university in the mid-1960s. They tried their best to follow their peers into Free Love, but neither was able to let go enough of reserve and worry. They were more comfortable in a conventional relationship with conventional gender roles. They married in 1966 and had Jewel in 1970, and Anna in 1973. Owen worked as an accountant and Evelyn stayed at home with the girls.
Jewel grew up and came into her womanhood in a culture where female sexuality was used to sell things and was objectified, but was not honoured as the deep, powerful force that it is. Even though she could see that she was having an endless string of unsatisfying relationships, she couldn’t get enough of a hold on disparate pieces of herself to be able to stop the progression from one man to another. Finally, at 47, she had had enough. She ended her current relationship and drifted for six months. Then someone sent her to see me.
What I’m going to do now is to treat Jewel like a real person and do a short session for her so that we can see what comes up. My intention is to focus on heart healing, but we may wander off into other territory. (I don’t hold a specific intention when I work with real people; I let their bodymind tell me where we are going.) I also hold the intention that if any of this resonates with you, that you also get to benefit from a loosening of the hold of these beliefs. You get transformation too.
The first place that I am taken to is a field where I typically get to see the past, the current situation, and some hint of the path forward. To the left in the image, in the past, I see a sea of mown-down male bodies – all the men that have moved through Jewel’s life. I can feel that she moved into relationship with each one hoping that he would be the one who could open to her while at the same time as giving her space to contain herself. I can feel her dad Owen here, being unavailable to anyone, including himself. In the centre of the image, the current situation, I see Jewel standing still, looking exhausted. I can feel her unable to contain and hold energy for later use, so she’s always running on almost empty. A new man gives her a boost for a short while before he begins draining her. To the right in the image, the way forward, I can see Jewel standing tall with this beautiful figure eight of shiny energy running through her torso from the pelvic bowl to the collar bones, with the narrow, crossing part of the eight tucked into the place where her ribcage joins in the front centre of her body. For this woman, healing starts in the heart and in the sensual/sexual/emotional belly.
That’s our set-up.
First piece of healing that we are shown to do is a soul retrieval for an ancestor of Jewel’s. We are going back through her dad’s dad’s line eight generations back from that grandfather, to a male ancestor. The soul piece that is ready and willing to come back to this man left him when he was three. He watched his father, once again, abuse his wife with words and fists. A piece of this sensitive little man left because if that was what it meant to be a man, he wanted nothing to do with it. So he grew up shrinking away from being fully embodied and chose instead to live mostly in the mind. The piece that comes back to him feels full and sweet, and shows him how to fill himself up with himself all the way to the very edges of his whole body. I then followed this transformed energy as it ran down the family line all the way to Jewel. And even though I’m working on a stuffed rabbit as a surrogate for an imaginary person, the belly that I’m holding feels more full, like with more surface elasticity and resilience. (Don’t think too hard about any of this, it’s way outside of ordinary logic.)
Next piece of healing is to loosen what I call Scars in the Heart: all the places where a wound has been made by others’ words or behaviour. Here I’m really aware of Jewel’s mom, Evelyn. I can feel her as a young mom, totally overwhelmed and unable to feel her own emotions, saddled with two small girls who want everything from her, and no real support. I can feel that Evelyn started taking support from Jewel, and handing over the emotions that she couldn’t handle to her oldest daughter. All of this left marks on Jewel’s heart because she could never, ever have been enough to fill up her mother’s heart and take away her mom’s own mother wound, put in place by over-protective, panic-stricken Catherine. So I deal with these scars by moving my fingers lightly over the surface of the whole heart complex from shoulder to shoulder underneath the collarbone and moving down from there in horizontal lines. When I find a scar, I vibrate it energetically until it begins to release. I do so now on the rabbit. I find three smallish ones that feel nevertheless very significant and one large kind of lumpy one that has been cutting Jewel off from the solar plexus downwards, separating her from her power, her will, and her ability to set boundaries.
Now I see the figure eight from the first anchor image again, running from pelvic bowl to collar bones, and I’m shown how for the next little while Jewel will be building up a store of power in her belly and in her heart. I tell her to keep her heart space as clear as she possibly can by taking quiet walks by herself with no phone, no music. I tell her to become aware of her sensual body by letting herself inhabit her hands as she goes through her day – really feeling the warm, soapy water when she is washing dishes, for instance. And then I tell her what I always tell people as they are leaving for the first time, which is that I have no idea how these energetic shifts will manifest out there in the real world.
If we move for a moment to the level of meta-interpretation, we can see that Jewel’s inherited love rules state that she will never truly be able to connect deeply with a man because he will not be able to be present with her, and probably she will always have to reach out to him after she has initially drawn him in. She probably had all kinds of tricks as a kid to get her dad’s attention, and she will have used these consciously or unconsciously to lure in the long line of men in her life. Another rule states that she will always have to take on other people’s emotions to caretake them, and that these emotions have priority over her own. This means that she probably has never known with utmost clarity what she is feeling at any given moment. These two rules on their own are enough to mess somebody up quite significantly in how they reach out into the world for connection.
Gentle, curious inquiry about one’s family’s love rules may bring insight into big life patterns.