the fine ‘functioning’ line

I feel a better understanding of the murky dynamics of my inner world emerging today. It is a slighty surreal awakening like the end of a dream at daybreak. It is indistinct and non-linear, but sharp too like a focus pulling telescope. My mind’s eye jumps between scenes of lonely girlhood confusion and this month’s mothering mistakes, it daydreams hopeful solutions for my son in a future that is yet to arrive.

My story of my self has changed in a moment . I see where I am responsible in the past (and where I was not), and now so too for the similar dynamics of my parenting and partnering.

I found this key in the extremely useful book “The dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner which unpacks, through the telling of case studies, some very useful principles for change. It is written for women, for we are socialised to deny our anger, but is not about women’s issues per se.

The core concept that I am learning and integrating is what I am going to call  ‘conscious functioning’- it is pretty much consciousness but as applied to relational patterns that are so subtle that they are almost invisible. They were invisible to me until now; their only traces anger (mostly unexpressed), frustration, isolation, confusion and fear.

I see now that my mother overfunctioned in some areas and underfunctioned in others: she did everything practical for us that she could. She worked full time, and part time (secretly selling tupperware or make up to supplement her threadbare income). She cooked, cleaned, drove us, made our clothes, gardened, cared for our dogs, created a solid home (she was a budget renovater extraordinaaire). These things she did because they showed her deep commitment and love for us. These things she did alone, and to avoid her loneliness.

She underfunctioned spectacularly on an emotional level. She almost never touched me, never supervised my homework or activities, never chatted, drank secretly while making dinner, never spoke about emotions or verbalised love, ignored the serious conflict between my step father and I, unknowingly enabled my chronic underachievement and severe social suffering. She hid her own emotional life and our family history. She schooled me thoroughly in the english culture of silence, secrecy and shame.

I wrack my brains for a memory of us playing, walking or otherwise enjoying each other’s company in some way. I come up empty.

So now I can understand those deep undisclosed longings in my soul- they make sense. I am entitled to them! I can understand where I have learned from her- my son is hugged and held and told how much he is loved. I can see where my fears come from- can I ever be the super practical mom that she was without being emotionally absent? Can I finish mothering myself so that I complete the past and remain clear in the present?

I can see where I am still to move on- I have yet mastered supporting my son to do everyday household tasks which he is more than capable of doing. I still side with convenience and tidyness not graciousness and kindness sometimes. Does it really matter to me if cracking a few eggs goes wrong the first 20 times he tries? Does it really matter to my partner? Perversely on some days it might, but thank God/ess I see this now, and dont lay it all unconsciously on him. Are the adults around him really so fragile that some mess, some noise, some learning isn’t OK? I am still hampered in many ways by a deep fear of failure and difficulty with vulnerability.

I can see that the heart of my son’s problems at school is the underfunctioning that I also used as an unhappy child.This means that the adults around him are over functioning in some way and we must shift these patterns without pulling our love out from underfoot in a rapid reversal.

This is a fine line indeed and only time and patience and love and awareness are going to keep us stepping along the wire, heads held high, world at our feet.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cathwrynn
    Jun 26, 2010 @ 02:59:10

    My mother studied art, hsitory of art, calligraphy and music at school and college. I never once saw her paint or heard her play the piano.


  2. Remus
    Jun 26, 2010 @ 19:49:00

    An awareness takes shape – you have expressed some of these feelings before. We do well to observe (be conscious), without a need to change things. Change will come as a result of consciousness, and bring with it an ease. Everything that you do is a step on the path towards consciousness. Blessings. Love.


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