Monday, March 29, 2010

Um, uh, about this silence...

I guess you could say I'm on sabbatical.

I may have mentioned once that I've been working on a project of transcribing my older diaries into my computer?  Currently I'm up to fall of 1987 and recording the 50th volume.

1986/87 were very significant years for me, and I've found I've had little energy to do much else.  So my focus has narrowed, I haven't been blogging, or reading blogs.  Perhaps when I get past this particular era in my life I'll broaden my focus again.

On an unrelated topic, my sons have been out of school for spring break.  Scott gets 2 weeks, and is just beginning week 2.  He was fascinated with q.uicksand, and I encouraged him  to look up some information on the web.

Did you know that there is a whole niche of fet.ish that involves beautiful women sinking in q.uicksand?


Friday, March 12, 2010

I think the family pattern doesn't need me

Situations like the one I've described earlier surface periodically.  They're a perfect microcosm of a bigger system.  In this case, there is a lie perpetuated, and telling the truth is more threatening than the lie.  The fact that a lie has occurred takes a back seat to preserving an image of What Should Be.  Therefore, telling the truth is threatening to a family system that is based on What Should Be.

I'd had not realized that Telling the Truth is only one part of affecting a system.  There is also the Accepting of the Truth.

There were many scenarios in my family where the emperor had no clothes.   I learned painfully that while being admonished to tell the truth, the real lesson was to keep silent.  Therefore I came to doubt my own eyes.  Maybe I was mistaken, and the emperor was wearing clothes that just made him look naked.  Maybe his appearance to me as naked was evidence of my own sinfulness, the devil tempting me from the One True Way (that he was dressed in finery).  Maybe I was delusional, prideful, thought I "knew better than anyone else". 

The family pattern protects itself.  Self-doubt is very effective in preventing serious questioning.  But if one of the family members breaks through that and begins to question/challenge, there is the fail-safe.  The pattern can refuse to accept the truth.  One way it does this is to cast doubt upon the veracity of the teller.

Such was the position I found myself in when my father told me he had 'no choice' but to accept my brothers' word.  And since my own Word was in direct contradiction to my brothers', where did that leave me?  I asked him and he talked about something else.

I went over and over it in my mind to see if I could be mistaken.  I asked one brother if he could reconcile the seeming conflicting "facts" of the situation and he too didn't answer.

I finally came to a resolve that I was not okay with my brothers' word being invited in to dinner and mine on the porch or out in the yard.  While my father wasn't overtly calling me a liar, my Word was relegated to some ambiguous half-state:  the penumbra of questionable.   I felt the weight of the pressure to just accept this and say no more about it.  That was my role in the family.  I felt the familiar machinations of Pattern to  silence me:  self doubt (doubt about the facts, doubt about my character, a peculiar sensation of unreality).  Also,  threat:  if I asserted  my truth,  it could destroy the family.  A family fight could disintegrate us, and it would be all my fault.  Peace in the family was riding on my willingness to sacrifice my truth and allow it to be left outside.  This is what I've always been required to do and what I've always done.

I wrote my father:

The part I keep returning to is that if I told you something that contradicts what they said, and you're saying you have to believe them, what does that say about me and what I told you?  It seems like it puts my Word off in some ambiguous place that resembles a lie.

I'm having trouble with that.

I don't know if you're telling me that you believe me, but for the purposes of family peace and stability you're going to behave
as if you believe them?  I can be fine with that, but I really want to know if you believe me... because it sure seems if you're "accepting their word", then you must be rejecting mine.  If what  they told you not only contradicts what I told you, but contradicts everything Dan has told me for the past 16 months, then I don't know how you can't be saying that I'm lying.  I've tried looking at this from every angle, but I just can't seem to find another way to look at it.

My father's response was that there was no way that he thought I was lying, and he must have misunderstood (or wanted to) whatever it was my brothers told him, or that he's screwed up in some way.

Again, the substance of the truth was not addressed and I see it will not be.  He is willfully refusing to see something that is in front of him, and very obvious.  What Should Be trumps What Is.

But, this doesn't have to be at the price of my own compliance in betraying my truth.  It appears that the Pattern can make accommodation for my opting out of my role through my father accepting "blame".  He can absorb the cost through saying he was mistaken somehow.  And the belief in family As It Should Be stays intact, and unthreatened.

I broke down the first line of defense of the family image by speaking the truth.  But he is firmly holding the second line of defense by refusing to see, and accept, the truth.  

That's none of my business.

What's important to me is that this latest manifestation that exemplifies our family dynamic, has been a vehicle for seeing clearly what has been going on, and to firmly and consciously refuse it.

I don't know that I've ever done that before.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The official version

For the past 16 months at least there has been an ongoing lie in my family.  One brother asked another for money, (or his wife did), and asked him to say nothing (to our father).  That brother told me, and asked me to say nothing.  I've kept quiet for 16 months.  Over time the feeling that something was very wrong grew inside, as did a strong sense that my silence was amounting to complicity, and protecting people who were behaving unethically.

Yeah, it was me.  And I broke silence last week and told my father everything.  When the brother who'd told me what was going on asked I felt compelled to be honest with him too. So he knows I've talked with my father.

To review.  One brother swore another to secrecy, and believed he was keeping everyone in the dark.  That brother told me and swore me to secrecy, with the first brother being in the dark--he didn't know that I know.  I broke silence and now my father knows.  He doesn't know that I told my brother that swore me to secrecy that he knows.  So now, everyone knows, but the first brother, and his wife, who ironically are now in the dark.

Without revealing that he knew what he knows, my father says he talked to each of my brothers.  He said one brother told him his version of reality (that is, that he stopped accepting money from his brother when my parents stepped in to help them with their monthly expenses) and the other one confirmed it.

If my parents helped them all of last year, and my brother helped them all of last year, in what universe did the one brother stop accepting money from the other when our parents "stepped in to help?"

My father wrote to me:    "I have no choice but to believe that neither Kevin nor Dan would tell me a direct lie when I asked a direct question.  So I have accepted their word..."

I responded:  You're aware that what Kevin and Dan told you directly contradicts what I told you.   And, it directly contradicts what Dan has been telling me for 16 months.  I don't know how you can reconcile that.   

My father hasn't called me a liar.  Yet what's true is he is indicating that he is legitimizing their word as what he will consider real, which must exclude mine.  The firmness of his tone says he wants no more discussion on this matter.

I wrote:   I know you don't want to believe it, and maybe you can find a way to believe them and not think that I am a liar, because that's the way this squares...I stand by what I said, because it's the truth

His next message was about something else and did not address what I said.

I asked the lending brother how it could be true that he'd helped them in the last quarter of 2008, and all of 2009, and my parents had helped them in 2009--how could it then be true that he'd stopped giving them money when my parents started?

He has not answered me.

I'm just beginning to comprehend the implications of this.  There is an official version.  And my father has firmly "said" that he doesn't want to be backed into a corner with the Truth.  We will act as if one brother gave the other money, for a little while, but stopped when the parents stepped in.  The truth has no place in the official version...and where does that leave me?  Hint:  the wind blows cold, and the underside of the bus is greasy.

This is what I've been thinking about for days now.  I haven't talked with them because I'm not sure how to.  And that's what I'm trying to come to grips with.

What seems clear is that in my family a lie has more legitimacy than the truth, if it supports an image of the family.  If Truth undermines the accepted version, well, then it is to be discarded.

In other news, tomorrow I go to talk to someone about a job.  It's more of an informational interview--I'll be interviewing them as much as they me.  I want to talk to a number of places and get a feel for which setting will be the best.  I'm eager to get moving on the divorce process, so we can tell our sons and larger families and finally stop holding this secret.  I'm thoroughly tired of secrets.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The ties that bind

It seems I can hardly mention my counselor, Sharon, without wanting to fill in our history.  It doesn't seem enough to say that I'm in counseling;  I feel compelled to say that I began with her 25 years ago and saw her weekly for 7 years.  We had a very unsatisfactory ending.  I used to record our sessions, and I believe our last one is recorded too, but I've never been able to bring myself to listen to it.  She was going through her own changes, the nature of which I will probably never know.  It was impacting the way in which she did therapy, and the change was not something I could adapt to.  Not long after we parted she stopped practicing as a counselor altogether.

Over time the hurt faded and I was able to remember the positive aspects of therapy, and the lasting good it was doing me.

Fourteen years passed.   I had my two children, moved to St. Louis, and back, faced a deteriorating marriage, and turned 50.    The deteriorating marriage was a catalyst for some intensive writing.   I had time to do it when my youngest began kindergarten.   I wanted to examine how, why, and where things would go wrong between my husband and me.  Most of the things I read suggested that the onus was on me to change. Any given interaction could fall apart so quickly and I really wanted to get a handle on exactly what would happen.  Was there really something about myself that needed to change--an attitude, a belief, a sensitivity?  If his behavior was offensive to me, was it because I was offended, therefore I needed to change whatever part of me took offense?

I spent hours trying to deconstruct some of our arguments or communications-gone-south, mentally laying them out like an exploded diagram of some machine.

I was in the midst of such soul searching when I realized that I owed my ability to even do so to the seven years I'd spent with Sharon.  I felt gratitude and decided to thank her.  So I looked her up online and saw that she was leading a study group of an author I'd recently come across.  I emailed her to see if I could join.  She called me and asked that I come in for a session first.  She was again practicing psychotherapy, to her own surprise, she said.  When she'd left the field of counseling, she never expected to return.  She didn't detail the path that took her through training to be an Archetypal Pattern Analyst.  I was intrigued enough by her study group to agree to see her for a session.  That was over 3 years ago.  I never joined the group.

Indeed, in the course of my life I'd often been frustrated by what seemed to be the emergence of a pattern.  The people and circumstances appeared to be different, but over time I'd realize there seemed to be an underlying template.  There seemed to be a Pattern that was self-similar, and it usually manifested in disheartening ways.  Its course was that I'd involve myself with people in relationships that seemed promising at first, but proved eventually to be unavailable.  There were a few forms of this.  In one men would present themselves as intensely interested, open up their hearts, yet get "scared" when mine opened in response.  It used to seem that the kiss of death of a relationship would be my own interest, which seemed to confirm the old "play hard to get" gambit.  I began to brace myself for the signs of a chill, and could usually sense immediately when the connection was broken--as soon as I began to want it.  I was left bleeding, furious that it had happened yet again:  an event like that propelled me into therapy with Sharon 25 years ago.  I thought I had healed that dynamic when I met Gary, until I realized that unavailability has more subtle forms than physically staying, or not.  Another form of Pattern I experienced was in the realm of accountability.  Certain important people were very offended if I attempted to hold them responsible for some broken agreement.  The implication was that there was some tacit agreement to let it pass unacknowledged--and I was trespassing.  The spotlight wasn't on the lapse, but on my mentioning it.  Their feelings were hurt because I named the act that had hurt my feelings.  It was as if my hurt feelings hurt their feelings.  Thus I spent a lot of time confused.  Was I wanting too much?  Was I too sensitive (a dreaded accusation)?  Was I predisposed to take things the "wrong" way?  Was what I wanted unreasonable?  The benefit of the doubt did not belong to me.  I was always afraid that I was in the wrong.

The dynamic was so much a part of who I was that I didn't really see it.  It didn't stand out as something that was worthy of mention to Sharon when we resumed our therapy relationship with her as Pattern Analyst.  It came up by chance in the course of a different conversation.

Even as I write the above I can hear echoes of the old doubts.  I can hear voices accusing me of "feeling sorry for myself", blaming others for my troubles, whining, 'poor me' and soliciting sympathy.  The driving force behind those thoughts strait-jacketed me and I could not penetrate it. Understanding eluded me.  It was easier to assume I was just wrong, period.  But then I felt miserable, and had a nagging feeling that that really wasn't It, yet I couldn't come up with what was.  I'd just get more confused.

I was wound very tight.  But with the help of Sharon's mentoring, I'm beginning to see the elements of the ties that bind.

Recent events reveal the bones of the pattern at its starkest.  I see very clearly that love in my family was not unconditional.  Love depended on allegiance to a certain unarticulated Code.  And if Truth conflicted with the Code, then Truth was to be sacrificed for What Should Be, instead of What Is.  Loyalty to What Should Be was a requirement for love.  Lies were required, even while a superficial version of  the "truth" was demanded.  As Palemother commented, "truth" in my family was about control and obedience.  What does one who has taken the expectation of Truth literally (and to heart) do when the demands of Truth cross the demands of Code?  What does one who loves the Truth do when required to lie, on pain of losing love?

One doubts oneself.  One poisons the well of her/his own feelings by doubting them.  This solves the problem of lying, when one's heart is devoted to the Truth.  Doubt, and confusion serve a protective function, even if that act of survival makes a person vulnerable in other areas.  This is because such a person is denied access to the hunches and inner promptings that guide our choices.  Such a person is prey to the demands of others because such a person believes the emotions meant to protect are motivated by selfishness. Such a person has to make a way blind in a world that's often pitiless.  Of course, the Code was meant to replace the guidance of a responsive heart and sensitivity.

More later, perhaps.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Truth dynamics in a family

I've been away from the blogs for at least 2 weeks because I've been so preoccupied with a family situation.

I am left to wonder if truth is like a light, or a vibration that shines through a family, and is transmitted generation to generation.  I wonder if each member of a family is like a facet of a kaleidoscope, reflecting and manifesting truth in unique ways.

I think all parents tell their children to "tell the truth".  A lie was severely punished, and shamed.  As the oldest child in the family I must have really taken to heart the obligation to be faithful to the truth.  For a while I confused telling the truth with admitting to some wrong-doing, even if I hadn't done it.  I got that straightened out.

My parents were rather restrictive, and as the firstborn they were even more overprotective of me.  Thus, I chafed while I watched many of my friends do things that I wasn't allowed.  My friends urged me to join them behind my parents' back, yet I couldn't.  To do so would be to lie.  When hemlines in dresses went high any of my friends with stricter parents merely rolled up their skirts once they left the house.  Mine stayed at the mandated one inch above my knee.  I turned down a number of rides home from school because my father would not let me ride in a car with teenagers.  On one of my early dates with my first love,  when we were juniors in high school, we went over to the house of an older friend of his.  (Rick was mature for his age and most of his friends were already independently-living young adults)  My father had told me I could not go into that friends' house and so I would not, even when everyone else went in, even when the friend was insulted and wanted to know "what was wrong" with his house.  Rick did go inside, but not for long.  He came back out to me and later told me I had "shown a hell of a lot of backbone" and that he respected me for it.

My strategy for juggling my adherence to truth in the conditions of overbearing parents was to wait them out.  I abided by their rules while I was "living under their roof", and as soon as I could left home.   I was 18 and I never looked back.  Those 18 years sometimes seemed to take forever.

My father was raised by a very harsh disciplinarian.  And while he probably was not as harsh as his father, he did manage to be very intimidating.  The fear of physical punishment guided our behavior to conform to the family rules, values, beliefs.  He did not outright beat us.  It wasn't like that.  At least for me. 

Perhaps it was different for my brothers.  I was seven when they were born and my sister was 5.  In a sense we were two separate families.  I wonder if the father-to-son dynamics may have carried more threat of violence than father-to-daughter.  I remember one of my brothers telling me that he truly felt that our father was capable of "beating us up".

If he ever doubted the rightness of his chosen disciplinary path, all four of us eliminated it.  We were poster children for the effectiveness of spanking:  compliant, respectful, model behavior.  We were probably people who didn't need to be spanked by temperament--eager to please, easily cowed.

My brothers' strategy for juggling truth and overbearing parents was concealment.  They chose to not wait out their term with the family to be able to do as they pleased.  They found our parents' restrictions unbearable, and unbearable to wait the many years before they were out from under them.  So they resorted to lies, when necessary, to conceal a truth that might generate harsh punishment.

It is interesting the degree to which a family which stressed the truth so emphatically in words, is invested in and with lies.

I guess I will leave it at that.