ATTENDING TO THE WOUND
-The deficit of care in a modern world
I don’t know how to be with my feelings of discomfort around what is happening in our world at this time. When I look around me I feel so bereft at the ways we are desecrating the fabric of life. I feel that as a woman it has taken all of my might to address the intricate weave of my own trauma at having been born into a patriarchal culture where care and reverence for the vulnerabilities and fine sensibilities of our humanness are so insidiously brutalized. I believe that there is a shut down that happens to our relationship to self, to our capacity to be attuned to our own instinct and to the wisdom of our intuitive responsiveness when we are born to a culture that pathologizes our biological needs for autonomy, intimacy, kindness and care. I feel this vast vacuum where these qualities should exist and in it’s place I see fear and the institutionalization of those in need of care, our children, the sick, the poor, those experiencing psychological crisis, the birthing, the elderly, the dying.
I feel the great trembling, thunderous dearth of the Feminine Voice in the world in which we are currently living, She lies bound and gagged and buried and She is thundering to be released from the throats of Her children, in the words and deeds of Her sons and daughters. We are all crippled by her absence in our lives, the lack of Her compassionate, inclusive, fiercely loving heart in our world has left me often feeling lost and confused and hungering for what is longed for but unknown, grieving for the agonizing vacancy where Her power should thunder and keen, croon and restore.
I believe we are each being called to acknowledge the pain of Her absence from within the folds of our beings, to allow Her suppressed justice, Her unflinching allegiance to nourishment and inclusivity, balance and truth to birth itself through us. She is asking us to feel our pain and accept that the current cultural paradigm we are existing within is an intolerable wasteland, devoid of true comfort and belonging. She is imploring us to unbundle our own stories of suppression and pain, for the truth is that our privilege amongst the ranks of the race of the colonial imperialists does not exclude or exempt us from its violent annihilation of our sense of belonging to the finely attuned web of life on the Mother Earth. We amongst the Western culture are all indigenous to this Earth, in each of us exists DNA that descends from those who for survivals sake, existed in harmony with the reciprocal tapestry of creation, deeply bonded to one another and the environment upon which we depended, we are not exempt from the deadeningly brutal anti-spiritualism of our time.
Where is our sacred rage at the atrocities committed in our names? How is it that we can stand by while our planet is violently degraded, human rights are disregarded, our fellow species annihilated? Where has the voice of the people gone? Where is the grass roots power that would create the change? Where is our courage? Where is our voice? The Internet and the facile surrogacy for intimacy it offers to us, the addicted hoards, might be one of the reasons for the screaming vacuum of our silence.
I feel in my own being, the ways in which we are taught in our culture that it is not safe to need, that to be called needy is to be insulted. We continuously subsume our true needs in order to collude with a world that does not attune to the true needs of our humanness, in a world where emotional vulnerability is scorned. I feel so often bereft in my experience of grief and the disconnection I feel from what I know only in its absence. As though my body has been asking since the moment of its conception, Can I trust this container? Can I bring all of myself here in the knowledge that all of me can be deeply met? The implacable imperative of this question has been nonnegotiable for me in my life, as so often the answer was no, as I have retreated from presence and consciousness, escaping my body for the lack of safety I have felt in the world around me.
I have felt so emotionally triggered by this traumatic experience of not feeling safe to offer myself to life, I feel the ways in which the traumas of my normal western birth, upbringing and education have kept me isolated in my mistrust that I will be met with true nurturance and compassion. I look around me in the world, at the wide scale experiences of sexual abuse, the harsh and unfeeling treatment of asylum seekers, the trauma of our indigenous people over their ongoing experience of colonization, the brutalization of our natural environment, the insidious disintegration of our rights to choose how we birth our babies, the compromise to our right to be guided by personal conscience in regard to the choices we make for our children’s health and wellbeing and I ask where is the voice of the fierce Mother? Where is She who protects and unflinchingly stands powerfully in defense of the vulnerable and the lost and the wounded, those in the tender threshold’s of life’s transitions?
Those who choose to bring themselves to the task of caring somewhere in the web of their lives, who accept our true state of unaccountable indebtedness, of immersed reciprocity do so courageously, against the trend of our culture, they do it unpaid or underpaid, and unacknowledged in the eyes of our world, and I honour them. To enact care and show kindness and compassion to those in need, or who depend upon others for their survival, in the full knowledge and attendance to the needs of one’s own self is a radical act in our culture, an act of political activism and I wonder what might become of our world if more of us stopped and acknowledged the real needs we carry beneath our wounds and chose to care and comfort our own selves and others more.
I name myself as one of the walking wounded, I carry within me places shrouded in grief and shadow that I have not yet learnt to heal and release. I have experienced deep longings for meaning and intimacy, I have harboured at times crippling feelings of inadequacy and bereavement within my self, for the unformed and aborted aspects of my psyche. I am in continuous relationship with the ironic and sometimes agonizing duality of longing for love and intimacy while simultaneously, unconsciously pushing it away in defense. I have for the bulk of my life been unable to view my own self with loving, compassionate eyes. There is a brutality to my own self-scrutiny. My mistrust of self has led me to often only know myself through the eyes of the other.
This impulsive hungering for external validation, like the baby crying in her cot or hungering for the breast on a regimented feeding schedule creates a relationship to stress which is corrosive. This hungering for deep and authentic succor is fertile breeding ground for addictions, the insatiable quest to fill and appease the lack and the longing without the risk of furthering the risk of human rejection. I carry shame around the fact that I am wounded and hold assumptions that others are not wounded in the ways that I am wounded, and yet to look at the newspaper is to witness a liturgy of trauma and neglect, violence, pain and unmet needs. I feel that to incarnate as a woman fully and powerfully into this life, onto this planet has taken such an immense tenacity. It has taken every ounce of will I could muster. It feels that to dwell here in my full feeling capacity and not be annihilated by despair or hardened by pain is an extraordinary undertaking.
It was only when it came to the task of birthing my own babies that I truly saw how challenging it was for me to stay deeply present in my body in the face of intensity, how unsafe it felt for me to embody my own full power as woman. Each of my birth experiences were a deepening into the claiming of this presence and power for myself, that I may offer my children the level of fierce attunement and presence that they have asked of me. In order to do this I have had to foster an enormous amount of gentleness and tenderness, forgiveness and tenacity to allow myself to feel the full weight of my responsibility to care and to also attend to the ways in which I have been culturally illequipped to execute that level of selfless service. Becoming a mother has brought me to attend to the uninhabited, mute and defended aspects of my psyche that were divorced from presence, this has required a fierce delving into the vulnerable needs of my animal self, my needs for touch and connection, nourishment and care and attunement in the relationships I hold with my loved ones.
After the births of each of my babies I have experienced a trepidatious mixture of utter elation and oxytocic bliss on the one hand and a bone shuddering anxiety on the other, around keeping these exquisitely innocent and utterly dependant creatures safe and deeply met by life on a soul level, in a world that feels at times less than hospitable to those of us who are tender of heart. There was also such an acute awareness of how exponentially expanded my capacity for love had become but in equal measure how much more vulnerable to the potential pain of loss I had become. It is this precarious relationship to life's duality that I think is numbed in our "death hating" culture. That to have life is to walk with death by one's side, that to have health is to deeply understand illness and dis-ease, and that central to true presence is the need to take full personal responsibility for our own existence, for our relationship to life and death, to suffering and experience, to fully embrace the intensity and precariousness and preciousness of our own incarnation.
I wonder if I am so very alone in my experience of woundedness and despair, or is there in fact a wide spread acculturation of numbing the pain of isolation and disconnection with materialism and technology. The insidious belief that to be needy is to be weak, that to be in a position that requires others to care for us, or at least to offer us compassion and kindness, supporting us to birth our own selves into being, as each of us has the capacity to do, is unsafe in our culture. To be vulnerable is very dangerous in a world where the level of empathy and compassion is so severely disabled that we can turn away boat loads of hungry and traumatized men, women and children and then incarcerate them for their need. I know that this is far from a simple issue but I find our dearth of cultural empathy astounding.
I do not propose that in acknowledging our vulnerability and the needs that arise from our wounds should we unconsciously ask others to carry our woundedness for us, but rather that we evolve our capacity to hold ourselves through radical self-care, through tenacious attending to our capacity to experience self love. I think it is then that we can truly start to open to receive and embody the voice of the fiercely protective Mother.
How do we learn to care from the places that are wounded within ourselves? How do we take responsibility, without blame, for the places that are barricaded or defended against feeling, against love, against full ownership of our lives? Is our culture as fully feeling and compassionate as it could be? Do we bear the full weight of our responsibility to self and other? Are we willing to fully accept the repercussions of our actions and our inactions? What would that look like? What if we judged ourselves on how we treated the most vulnerable in our culture?
I recognize the subtle signs of the deep wound to the feminine aspect of creation so often in the world around me. I see it in the way we inhabit our bodies, and are so quick to criticize the vessels that house our souls. I see it in the way we are afraid of our emotions, the zone out of our addiction to technology, drugs, alcohol, pornography; in our relationship to food, the way we eat, what we eat, our eating disorders; in the way we subtly and also overtly cut one another down in our appraisals of one another, the way we speak ill of one another behind backs and yet lack the courage to compassionately bring those differences to bear in person; in the lack of accountability and responsibility for the undercurrents of our positions; in the lack of tending and owning and consciously addressing the wounds that we carry; in the horrendously destructive ways that we treat the Earth, her non-human inhabitants and our fellow humans. It has been said that often those who are suppressed do not realize that they are suppressed and I think that this is an apt appraisal of us in the modern civilized world. We do not know what we have lost, we do not know how afraid we are to speak out against the dominant narrative, we do not know that in our unconsciousness we are both the oppressed and the oppressor.
I believe that at the heart of our disconnection from our activated, compassionate, deep feeling selves is the blue print of our cultural birth and parenting practices. It has taken years of being a “stay at home Mum” for me to find the wisdom and grace to begin to understand what it looks like to really attune to the needs of my children, their enormous requirements for stillness, touch, connection, slowness, intimacy, presence, the capacity to stay centered when they are overwhelmed with their emotions, and me with mine. It has been an enormous undertaking to still and nurture the wounded child within myself in order to come to presence with my own children.
If we attribute blame to the mothers in our lives we continue to nurse within ourselves an unconscious internalized rage towards the feminine. The core imperative of the feminine to care, to tend the internal world, to allow ourselves to inhabit a diffuse, receptive mind and body state, to centralize consciousness in the body rather than the intellect, is inhibited in those of us who feel impacted by this wounded feminine aspect, who feel impacted by the Mother wound. We are a culture with a brutal underbelly of medicalised birth trauma, sexual abuse, domestic violence. We are all victim to the monster of economic rationalism and the devastating neglect of the mytho-poetic, psycho-spiritual realms of our existence. And it is essential that we each adopt a radical self-responsibility for our own healing.
When our needs as children are not fully met, or when trauma occurs early in our life, it is natural for the child to perceive this to be their own fault, an assumption that their needs for touch, nourishment, eye contact, intimacy are unreasonable and to assume that there must be something wrong with the wanting, with the longing for these things. I feel that some modern day parenting advice is tantamount to abuse. Leaving infants to cry alone for long periods of time, demands on the child to sleep through the night, trends away from natural childbirth and breast feeding, the employment of child care very early in a child's life when bonding with a primary care giver is paramount for the infant’s emotional wellbeing, are all ways of teaching the beingness of the human that there needs will not be met, their cry will not be heard, we learn to suppress our need for comfort and care from such a young age. I believe this primal wound impacts so deeply upon the psyche of our collective culture. We have made ourselves immune to our own deep primal needs and are therefore shut down to our empathic responses to the Other. I believe we are a heart broken culture, pathologically intellect focused, and unable to bring our deep human potential, our pure primal consciousness to incarnate into our bodies on the Earth plain.
The wounds that dwell between the hearts of mothers and their daughters and sons are inflicted by the world, by history and suppression, by religion and patriarchy, by a culture that subjugates those who care and then places the blame firmly on their shoulders. I believe in the power of love to transcend the story of personal wounding, and I envision a collective healing where our capacity to offer care is seen as something of value and great worth. For those of us who feel ourselves to be victim of separation from the Mother, of having not been received in the exact way that our soul might have longed for and needed as a baby, child or young adult, I invite us all to see this wound as a gateway to birthing our own selves into the deep, holy love of the Mother that we long for.
As a woman and a mother I am trying to bring compassion and forgiveness to those parts of myself that have not fully learnt yet how to wholly belong to my own self and the lives I have seeded. I am deeply committed to becoming more of what I believe our birthrite of love is. I am looking now to take responsibility for my own journey with the sacred wound and wonder how different the world might look if I stopped blaming my mother for a wounding of separation from the feminine, from my inner capacity to Mother myself, from the Earth, that is much deeper than the personal limitations of any one woman.
It is an enormous task we face as we take responsibility for our wounds and choose to make different choices in the way we live. I ask myself as the mother of a young daughter, how can I transcend the acculturation that I received to be a good girl, to consider the needs of others always above my own? How do I allow the wild face of the sacred Feminine to express itself through my children, to still the fear, control and lack of safety, that their boisterous play and fierce assertion of will elicits within me as someone who was taught to suppress my voice and subjugate my will? How do I allay the triggering of my own suppression to make space for Her to shine through them in our lives, with Her edge of chaos and furry and Her fierce loving heart and sensual freedom and delight? How do I teach my children to honor the power of their own feminine traits, to listen fiercely to their own hearts and to learn the language of feeling, teaching them to inhabit the intensity of their own bodies without shaming or suppressing the raw primacy of this energy?
Central to this narrative is the notion of time. We are all pathologically busy in our culture, phobic of spaciousness and the timeless strata of existence. To stop and poise and listen is to invite a flood of guilt around our productivity and purpose, shame around our worth and value. But all action becomes empty when we fail to source true direction from within. The quality of deep listening required to hear and heed the true imperative of the moment requires enormous attunement to the needs of the self, requires establishing a responsible communication with the needs of our inner realms, requires a radical valuing of stillness over habitual motion, emersion in the language of the soul as well as a literacy in the language of the culture.
We require a powerful coming home to the needs of our own beingness, a tender mothering of the requirements for attunement and care to the deep longings and hungers of our own interiors, and sometimes the finding of this attunement to self requires that we honour the suppressed processes of grief which we have overridden for a lifetime, a saying “yes” to unwept tears and mute rage and blind fury and tender keening. In order to heal our wounds we must come to create new and individual relationships to time and space, so that we may transcend the cultural imperative to stay busily removed from our own true impulses to care and commune.
The imperative to love, care and attend to our own deep needs is brutally neglected in our time and this is perhaps the first place we must all look in redressing the balance of care in our world. How do we learn to take care of our own needs in a culture that would subsume all of our energy with its outward, goal-oriented imperative? This contract we hold with our culture is fully supported by our tendency to bounce back out when we look in, deflecting out from the pain and grief we encounter in our own interiority, the wealth of our own neglect. It takes a great courage and a faith in the bigger picture to override this culture of neglect to the deep feminine core of our own selves.
It feels frightening to me to share my heart in this way, deeply vulnerable, but I also feel that this is the great travesty of our modern existence, that the soft and tender, the vulnerable and internal, can find no foothold, trampled underfoot by all the brash certainty, the punitive superiority and adversarial posturing. There are days when I feel like a tender child, my eyes brimming with unnamed tears and in all the 40 years of life, I’ve never really been able to step out from the dark, interior embrace of my own woundedness, because I am still swaddled close to the breast of that source of pain, because I have never been able to stride bold and certain of myself into the shiny and bright world with a sure sense of what it is that I am here to offer, assured of my belonging and unabashed in my sense of worthiness. Because my wound will not yet set me free of its imperatives, I wonder if there is something of the wound that is asking to be brought to the light of the world.
Sometimes I have an inkling that the darkness is not only something to be transcended in order that we may stand in the light, but rather it is a polarity of equal measure, an equivalent power to the light, and that to enter into it, without assurance or direction, without torch or road map is to enter into the realm of the dark feminine. To say yes to that dark interior realm of mythos and shadow, uncertainty and dream, birth and death, the transformation that happens when we embrace that which is not known, that which is not seen or understood, that which is asking for birth or succor in the dark primordial womb of the Mother. We must trust our own senses in this place, our own instincts must be intact, we must know ourselves deep and true, we must be our own compass and source of authority to turn from the bright light of the world and turn to the unformed realm. To turn toward the pain, reach into the wound, move closer to the longing and surrender our knowing and certainty. I think maybe it is here that we will find Her ferocious love and the courage to fight for our integrity as a people.
That deep primordial Feminine consciousness has been persecuted on our planet for many millennia now and the fear we feel as women and men, that we will be torn down for speaking out in the name of Her values is well founded. Whilst in the 16th century the witch hunts were blatant and highly visible, they are now of a much more subtle and internalized nature. It is we ourselves as a people who undermine and cut down expressions of true feminine power in one another and in our own selves, with an indoctrination of the danger of being aligned with feminine values. The edicts of this tyranny are enforced by the conformity to the hyper rational imperative and the demonization of the Mother archetype.
I wonder in the years to come what I might tell my grandchildren about what it was that I did in the face of the elusive and seemingly invisible but no less brutal atrocities of our time in regard to the wounding done by institutionalized sexual abuse, the ongoing genocide and abdication of our responsibility to atone for the treatment of our first nations people, the violation of human rights in relation to asylum seekers, the erosion of civil liberties in regards to our capacity to make choices in relation to our own birthing rights, health care rights and food production rights. I do not know how to have a voice in our world but I’m determined to try and find one, for the sake of my children, and for the sake of my grandchildren to come, and the red thread of my lineage as it weaves its way into the dreams of tomorrow.
I am not sure if my courage is greater than my fear. I do not know if my faith in my own gut instincts and the whisperings of my intuitive self are more or less persuasive than my compliance and my compulsion to tow the line of the dominant narrative, which would keep me silent and homogenized, which would keep me superficial in my relationship to self and other, which would keep me passively addicted to the hollow succor of our times rather than potently imbedded in my own fierce bondedness to the Mother Earth and to my own bloodline, to the dire needs of our time and to the untended wound of my kind that festers and in its festering does untold damage to the integrity of the biosphere.
I feel the need for us to individually and collectively attend to our personal stories in relation to our own birth and birthing stories, our own childhoods, to the traumas that might exist embedded in these experiences, because I feel that we cannot access a transpersonal experience of the feminine and of her vast compassion and fierce protective capacity, we can’t access her depth and connected reciprocity and the experience of immersion in a primal nurturing matrix without addressing the resistance that is formed through the wounds of the personal. I think for each of us to take responsibility for our own woundedness in a culture that is devoid of an authentic nurturing ethic is a radical act of self-responsibility.
Words and images © Lucy Pierce 2016