Emotional Abuse in Families of Privilege
This is about emotional abuse in families of privilege. Let’s go.
Resentment illness is the slow poison of emotional abuse. It does not poison as a result of a single traumatic incident or pain or even several but rather occurs like the slow erosion of rock by the habitual stream of water. It takes us unawares. It is stealthy that way. Emotional abuse is about resentment.
This resentment can start when we are young before we have the capacity for self-defense, when we are very young and dependent on our people to protect us. But sometimes our people don’t have the capacity to protect us because they are the emotional abusers suffering from the wounds of their own experiences. It is often not intentional.
Nevertheless we are each responsible for our own emotional pain regardless of how it comes to us — and whether inwardly or outwardly directed. If I blame another person for my emotional pain, if I shift the burden of responsibility for healing it — no matter my innocence or accident of circumstance — then I am practicing resentment and I am allowing resentment to take root and grow in my body. This is illness. It is resentment illness. It is spirit illness.
This does not mean that what happened didn’t happen or wasn’t traumatizing or dramatic or sad or unfair. It may be to various degrees all of these things. I get it. What I am trying to convey is that in matters of the body and mind and soul these realities are not important and a focus on them will thwart healing.
I want to share with you my story of energetic emotional abuse in my beautiful family of privilege. I say "energetic" because it was often a stealthy energy in our home. But it was emotional abuse reader and I am sharing it so that we can have meaningful dialogue about its challenge for us so that we can begin to make honest assessments of its impact on our bodies, minds, and souls. It is time to do this.
Now this is hard because it is going to seem like this is all about me and I am a white woman of privilege. But it is not all about me and I am using my experience to develop a profile of dysfunction that is relevant to many people and many families. I have confidence that this is so.
I offer the exhibit of my dear older sister who suffered similarly and has had many of the same dysfunctions of behavior and choice as a consequence.
I offer the exhibit of my brother David Alan, Jr. who is no longer here to tell his version of this tale. I am also doing this for the children he never knew and the beautiful and brave partner he left. I am doing this to heal my family.
I offer the exhibit of our brother Matthew Stephen currently estranged from me. He has a different kind of story because he was the youngest and came later to our family and experienced a different set of challenges. My mother has always called him the joybringer and I understand this.
Emotional abuse like this can be subtle. It is stealthy and systemic and this is an important point to reckon with because even without intention emotional abuse does its damage. That is why I am writing this. I love my family. I love my parents. I still want to bring light to subtle emotional abuse systems so that people can heal from these as I have healed. I am healing.
This is about emotional abuse in families of privilege.
I am emotionally sensitive. Very sensitive. Some people are. We are not all the same in this regard. Let's stop pretending that we are. Emotional abuse is especially damaging for sensitive children. We should grapple with this.
This is not just about me reader.
I was a child of privilege born to extraordinarily young parents who did not know how to handle their pain. I had an older sister and two younger brothers. We had wonderful adventures as a family when I was young: sailing in summer, ski trips in winter, hiking in the Shenandoah, glorious summer vacations at our remote beach house in Corolla, North Carolina.
Corolla especially was a remarkable place in the 1970s and the things we experienced there were enriching beyond measure. Aspects of my childhood and youth were stunning and magical.
The contrasts between these significant privileges and the emotional energetic disturbance our family suffered created a web of emotional injury difficult to understand much less dismantle — but dismantle it we must. We need to heal.
My father was an avid photographer during some really magical years. We have a photographic record of this time that is priceless. Nothing in this record will necessarily support what I am going to tell you and that is the way of energetic disturbance and emotional abuse. You cannot see it. It is a stealth injury.
My father was emotionally abusive to my mother. He caused her so much pain she nearly died of it. She was probably stealthily abusive to him too. She was often unwell.
My mother kept on loving my father no matter what he did to her. His brand of emotional pain was often hidden from we children. He was never violent or actively destructive.
My mother in turn was chronically depressed and often cruel and neglectful to my sister, brothers and me to various degrees over many years. Some of the more difficult energies expressed when my sister, my brother Alan and I, and my parents, were very young.
This drama was private. It was not apparent outside our home. As children we also did not understand what was happening in our family.
As I grew older I blamed my mother for most of the bad vibes because I adored my father and he was handsome and fun.
My family’s beautiful, tragic and complex history offers a vehicle for me to deliver a message. I will be developing a framework for understanding how the subtle disruptive and negative energetic patterning systems of emotional abuse hurt our bodies and minds and souls.
I will discuss how this negative energy exchange creates disturbances in the body and these disturbances become our emotional and physical illnesses. We become dysfunctional in proportion to our injuries and our degree of sensitivity.
We need to stop talking about our illnesses as if they don’t have anything to do with our energetic and emotional physical climates. I am sick to death of it.
I almost died from that hackneyed old saw. So I am issuing my confrontation with the truth about why we get sick and what we need to do about it.
Susceptibility to this kind of energetic disturbance is a matter of individual energetic operating systems of which there are many. People have different kinds of energy systems. Some people are energetically tougher than others.
My brothers and sister and I are all energetically sensitive to a high degree. We are all introverts. We are all INFs and if you know Meyers-Briggs typology this will make sense to you. The bookends — the oldest and youngest — are INFJs. The mess in the middle — my brother Alan and I — are INFPs. I know that will resonate with some of you.
As far as energetic classification goes, some point to sixteen general types of operating systems,* but energy is not keen on categories and it is slippery business which is also one of the reasons we pay so little mind to it at our obvious peril.
*Sol Luckman describes and explains these in Potentiate Your DNA.
It can be challenging to turn the hard light on family history. It makes us squeamish. I don’t want to use a broad stroke with my brush and suggest that what I will share defined the entirety of my family life. Because it both did and it did not. It is both of these things.
What I mean is energy is energy. It is going to do its thing. It is not going to say oh hey, there’s lots of other nice stuff here so I guess I’ll go someplace else. No. Energy is neutral in this way. It just does.
I also have a daughter’s gratitude for the many gifts I have been honored to receive from my family– gifts of temperament and intelligence and beauty, gifts of experience and learning, immeasurable gifts of many kinds.
I am grateful.
And then there is you reader. I use my family in this personal way so that you can be invited to explore your history alongside.
So read this with the understanding that you are inextricably bound to the people who raised you. You have your own version of a family tale. It tells the story of your life and how you came to be you with your own gifts and flaws and challenges.
As a child I always felt special and loved reader. It wasn’t a feeling of ‘specialness’ borne of the ego. It wasn’t conscious in that way. I felt special. I had an energetic sphere of specialness around me that was comforting to me. I knew I was loved. My parents loved me.
What I am reckoning with is that this experience of love does not negate the energetic trauma of emotional abuse that I experienced. I still experienced it. I was hurt. My parents were troubled. But because I was also loved I turned out really very well despite this trauma.
I know my journey has been purposeful reader as all journeys are. I find reward in looking at my past through the lens of this now. All the players have played their part. The powerful play goes on so that I may bring you my verse — after Whitman.
None of this is clear. It is messy and complicated and full of contradictions. I take away one main point as I look at my complex relationships with others: I am responsible for healing myself. No one else is involved.
We must endeavor to rid ourselves of the focus on the other person as responsible for our suffering. As my teacher A Course in Miracles points out: “You did this to yourself. And you have the power to heal from it.”
This means my energetic patterning system and my emotional responses are mine. I can understand them. I can navigate them. I can moderate them. I can discharge and heal them. It is my responsibility to do this.
This is my experience: my impossibly young parents were married for twenty years when my father left my family. I was sixteen, nearly seventeen. My eighteen-year-old sister Deborah Elizabeth had left for college. My brothers David Alan, Jr. and Matthew Stephen were thirteen and eight years old.
My father was thirty eight and my mother was thirty seven. From my vantage point of fifty eight, this youth seems heartbreaking to me. Mistakes were made.
I believe I sought my father’s affection because as a young child I was injured energetically by my mother’s chronic depression which caused her to be cruel, unkind and unavailable.
I lived in a perpetual state of fear about upsetting my mother and causing her to berate me emotionally over small things like not taking my shoes upstairs to my room. It may seem trivial but I was as I said a sensitive child and suffered enormously from these things. I was susceptible. I did not have a built in energetic defense to this. Some people do. So I understand that more emotionally resilient children would have had different experiences in the same circumstances.
This is important. How individuals receive energy and what that energy does in the body is going to be different. It is slippery business. I think we need to look at it anyway.
Accepting my responsibility for receiving negative energy that hurt me has been an ongoing challenge. I say I am responsible because it is my energy system. I am more sensitive than most people. It is my responsibility to understand this and manage this.
What I mean is that to resolve or to heal energetic disturbances in the body, we must turn inward and focus on ourselves. We must do the work.
Only ourselves. Only inward.
Nicole LaPera’s book How to do the Work is a handbook for this process.
The more common response is to lash out or internalize patterns of resentment. Or to believe we must confront the individual who hurt us, demanding apology or other kinds of emotional concessions.
I think to myself okay Patricia Anne why would we look to our abusers for support and healing? We should not. That was another big learning.
Are you seeing how this cycle works? Nothing gets resolved, disturbances are compounded, and illnesses develop. Let it go and go inward.
Now I want to talk about the “inner child” and child fear because I have come to realize that the energetic injuries we receive as children express differently than those we receive as older children or adults.
The energetic injuries we receive as children become much more entrenched and they impact us as adults more than any other later energetic injury.
Our child fears often become the seat of our physical illnesses and emotional dysfunctions even though we believe we have “moved on.” As my brother Stephen said this is all in my rear view mirror. No it is not little brother. We have little defense from energetic injury when we are children.
This is because when we are young children we do not have the capacity to use our reason to protect us. We cannot deflect the energetic disturbance. It comes right inside our child bodies and takes root and grows into our later illnesses and emotional dysfunctions.
As children we are far more vulnerable to negative energy because of this. Our later maturing reason gives us the power to discharge negative energy.
Because children don’t have the defense of mature reason, energetic reactions like fear and its subsequent retreat response — the duck and cover — become a way of protecting ourselves.
Because the fear response is not reasonable-- or of our consciousness-- this reaction gets stuck in the body. This response continues to play its role defending us against any similar energy automatically. It is physical and not of the conscious mind. It is an adaptive response. We have our child fear adaptive response when we are confronted with the same kinds of energetic situations.
These are our emotional dysfunctions.
This is our child fear.
We all have child fears. It is unavoidable. Even the most well adjusted among us has fears rooted in childhood. A fear of heights, a fear of spiders, unexplainable avoidance of various life situations — all of these things are probably about negative experiences in childhood. On a larger scale child fears are crippling.
I would put my own child fears in the medium range and these child fears have distorted my reality in important ways. I have approached life from a state of fear. I work hard to overcome this but it shows up in my life through persistent anxiety about social encounters and completing certain chores of daily life like doing the taxes or going to the DMV. I dread social engagement in particular even though I love people.
So fear is number one for me. Second to that is abandonment and third is a need for validation and the fear that I am not going to get it. This is my major trauma profile.
As you read my story, you will begin to see how these traumas emerged. I hope this is instructive for you. What I want you to do is figure out what your trauma profile might be.
You do this by locating your fears and tracing them back to their root causes. Sometimes this takes time. Sometimes you can see it right away. It is extremely helpful to confer with like-minded others, people who are also doing this work. I have found we all really want to help one another figure it out.
Next I want to share about trauma release of child fear. I will tell you what happened to me so far. It is pretty weird. Hold on to your hat. About a week into starting this work and grappling with these issues I woke from a dream state in the middle of the night, about 2 am. I had an overwhelming feeling of fear.
I sat up in bed. The fear began to rise in my body and it started to come out of my mouth as sound. I began to whimper then cry. I felt enormous anxiety and I tried to beat the feelings back down. I did not know about child fear yet. I had only just been confronting, and newly confronting, the reality of my past.
This had been difficult for me and I was resistant to seeing anything that had happened to me as unusually traumatic. To me it was just my life and nothing more. I had no desire to see my parents as agents of pain and trauma. None.
I had long since accepted my parents and everything that happened in our family as the consequences of wounded people trying to navigate a difficult world. I still feel that way.
However I have come to understand that this doesn’t matter in terms of my energetic injuries. The injury is still there reader. My mind may have moved on but my body had not. My subconscious had not.
Now I sat up in bed with this mounting fear coming out of my mouth. I am not terribly expressive. I have a lot of emotions but I do not show them freely. I am not demonstrative that way. This is also the result of child fear and trauma. So I tried for several minutes to contain the fear coming out of me. I tried to get a grip on myself but I could not. This was startling.
As my panic rose, I realized I needed help. My husband was soundly asleep upstairs. I got out of bed and went to the stairs yelling help me help me. I need help. I went into the bedroom and he sat bolt upright in bed saying what what what what is it. I got on the bed and started sobbing and screaming. He layed down with me in the bed, saying what is it what is the matter what happened?
I could only scream. Then I began to scream at the top of my lungs I am scared. I am scared stop scaring me. Then I became enraged and again screamed stop scaring me you are scaring me stop scaring me you are scaring me.
Then it was over.
I sat up and said that was weird. I felt an urge to laugh but I didn’t. I was completely relieved. My husband said did you have a bad dream? What was that? I said no I don’t know what it was. I then said this bed is really comfortable and I quickly fell back to sleep.
It was shortly after this that I started to learn about child fear. Of course then it was easy to see what had happened. I had authorized my body to release fears that I had been suppressing by not understanding and acknowledging them. Once I experienced what I will call the shock of recognition, the biggest fear released.
And it was a big fear but I do not know what it was about. I have no idea. I do not need to know to release it. My throat was raw for several days.
I know that sounds dramatic and it was but my sense is that the root cause may not have been so dramatic. I had a child’s response to something and that was the response that grew in my body. That’s the best way I know how to describe it. I was an anxious and fearful child.
Since then I have had a number of smaller, gentler releases but I identify them as child fear releases because in the course of releasing, I became a child. I felt like a child. My emotional climate was that of a child.
In these later releases I was at turns a baby, an eight year old, a teenager, a tentative young woman. These were all different releases at different times. Many were quick and unremarkable except for the impression of being my younger selves. The most recent was just the other day on my daily walk.
It was about fear associated with doctors and medical treatment. It was surprising to me that this came up then but when I was a baby I had a course of antibiotic injections in my thighs to treat an intractable infection.
I was traumatized by these visits to the doctor. In my release I found myself saying forcefully why are you hurting me?I found myself saying mommy why are they hurting me? I was childlike in my voice. I was not using my adult now voice. I had a whiny, petulant high pitched tone.
This was revelatory to me. As I walked I let myself speak. I did not try to stop or change it. I walked as normal. I just let these words and emotions come and work themselves out. This only lasted a few minutes and it did not disrupt my walk in any way other than being weird. I observed this with interest and finished my walk relaxed and at ease.
This was child fear release.
It is a necessary part of emotional healing.
You can do it yourself completely alone as I have done. I write about a method for this in my piece “Save the Cheerleader. Save the World: New Ideas on Manifestation.”
Now onward we go with our story— prior to his leaving us when I was a teenager, the worst of my father’s bad energy was centered on my mother. We children, with the exception of my brother Alan, were generally spared except for the miasma of negativity and stress. After my father left my mother, I became a primary negative focus for him. I do not know why.
I worked for my father in his dental office after school in a work/study program run by my high school. Before my father left my mother, I had discovered his affair with his young receptionist. She was only a couple years older than my sister. My mother found a letter I was writing about it to my best friend Libby who lived overseas.
Now this is a friend interlude because I want to mention here that I was never friendless as it might be easy to assume from my descriptions. I try not to overstate things but it is quite hard to re-present a reality. Bear this in mind as you read my story because our perceptions and our own life experiences begin to form the narrative just as much as the narrative itself. That’s the magic of reading.
You are in the process of creating a me that may or may not be accurate. It is probably in between. I used to say to my students that language can only ever approximate. My words are serving re — presentation and in some ways they will fail. This is just how language is.
Energy is in fact the only truly honest communication.
Because of this tendency to create our own creations I wanted to tell you that I did have friends. My story often captures me at my loneliest (or my most unhappy) and that is not accurate for all the time, just like any portrait or photograph can only present a snapshot of a moment.
Sometimes the snapshot is accurate, sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is a stunning glorious version of a hoped for self, sometimes it is something wet the cat drug in. So for the sake of accuracy I want to emphasize that I had friends.
My confidence to Libby in that letter exposed my father’s office affair and resulted in his leaving our family. It was Christmastime. I have blocked this time from my mind. I do not have many specifics.
I can heal myself without knowing specifics because energy is not specific. It is neutral and it is non-specific. It lives in the abstract, in the conceptual. If I can identify a feeling such as fear, shame, resentment — and any number of related negative emotions — I can work through a process internally all on my own to help my body purge and clear emotional energetic disturbance.
And this is what I have done and continue to do now as a life practice*. I have learned that only I can heal my energetic injuries and I have pieced together a process that has worked for me. I discuss this in my healing protocol.
*see “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”
To continue my story, my father created a damaging energetic climate of emotional pain with me in his office over the course of a year. I told no one. I did not understand it.
It was a miasma. Invisible but everywhere.
I did not understand why my father was cruel to me. I believed I was not worthy of his love. I believed I was ‘in trouble.’ I tried to apologize for messing up his life. I experienced guilt and shame for messing up his life.
His girlfriend was also cruel to me. I accepted all their cruelty without question. I did not fight back. This was wrong of me. Instead I received this into my energy body, taking it in like a sponge. I tried to be more helpful and loving.
Some months later I left for college. Life went on regardless of my pain. I tried to ignore and deny my pain too. I wasn’t successful at this but I also didn’t understand why I was in pain as strange as that sounds.
I did not adjust well to college. I began drinking some — not very much — and smoking. I skipped almost all of my classes. I slept large portions of the day and read books in the little bed in my dorm room. The World According to Garpwas a favorite. By the second semester I had failed every class except English and Philosophy. I got As in those. No one reached out to me at this time — not the school administration, not my parents.
I am apparently a slow learner, a faithful puppy dog or something, so forgive me for this next part which will demonstrate the enormity of my illusion of support.
My parents did not retrieve me at the end of that first year of school, rather my long distance boyfriend Chris came with his friend across the two states to get me and take me home in a beat up old car that lost tire tread as we travelled up N95.
I arrived at my family home where my father continued to live with his girlfriend, her young son, and my two little brothers. My mother had taken an apartment elsewhere and I do not know the details of these arrangements or why it happened in this way with my father caring for my brothers. This was unusual forty years ago.
I walked with my things through the garage as I always did to enter my house at the mudroom. My father opened the door before I could and blocked my entrance. He said I was not welcome and besides my bedroom was now Brian’s who was Barbara’s young son.
I was then homeless for many months. I was able to stay with my boyfriend. We shared a mattress on the floor of a small apartment in Reston, Virginia. I grew up in McLean which is not far from Reston. It took me some time to recover from this rejection. I eventually got a job and then an apartment of my own but my drinking behavior escalated for a time. I fought against the behavior successfully and with the exception of a few episodes of drunkenness I was unbothered by it.
A year and a half later I decided to return to school. I was going to go to Richmond to live with my sister and attend Virginia Commonwealth University where she was finishing up her art degree.
My academic record was poor so this was a challenge for me. Nevertheless I was given the opportunity to prove myself in a trial semester based on a wonderful recommendation I received from a professor at my previous school.
This professor went out of his way to send a lengthy and descriptive recommendation of my academic potential even though I never requested a recommendation. When I received it I sat on the corner of the mattress on the floor of Chris’ bedroom and cried. Sometime later when I was able to share this recommendation with my father, he said “What were you doing? Sleeping with him?”
I have highlighted for you here so far in my narrative energetic insults I took into my body over the course of several years. Rather than say, oh isn’t that sad. You sure did make a great recovery eventually Patricia Anne I ask you to pause and think about the concept of energetic baggage and what all those traumas, large and small, were actually doing to my physical self and my emotional and intellectual selves.
Well — a lot.
I suffered at that early age from disabling social and general anxiety and at times truly frightening depression.
I suffered periods of extreme fatigue and lethargy and disorienting periods of disconnection from my body so that as I walked about trying to manage my daily life not very well, I felt as if my consciousness was detached from my physical person.
This gave me a floaty feeling of unrealness and made it impossible for me to engage successfully in the world. I told no one.
How do you tell someone something like that?
I was twenty years old.
By the time I was thirty, I was taking antidepressants and benzodiazepines to counter all this. I took this medication for over twenty five years. I now take none*.
And it strikes me that I want to say that there is nothing unusual in all of this. Isn’t that terrifying? It is an important point.
I don’t share this to be dramatic or suggest that my challenges were more severe than other people’s. To the contrary. I believe the opposite is true. I believe this is common reader. Can you believe that? It is common. Family dysfunction like this is common.
The details and emotional particulars will be different; the matter of degree will be different but we all have trauma. It is an unavoidable condition of being human. Learning to recognize the negative energetic volleys and deflect and release them is an essential tool for living a healthy life in modern society.
We are a diseased culture. Let’s heal. We are meant to live in joy and abundance.
*See Kelly Brogan’s Own Yourself
More than anything I want to offer my account so that you can explore your own history with negative energy disturbances and emotional trauma.
You can stop believing it wasn’t a big deal. You can stop getting ‘over it’ which is synonymous with repression.
You can stop denying anything is wrong; you can stop pretending everything is okay. You can stop self-medicating and employing any of the dozens of ways we rationalize to avoid confronting the emotional truths of our traumas.
Why does it matter? you say.
Why can’t I just move on?
Because maybe you are reading this because you are suffering from unresolved energetic trauma. It may be making you sick. It may be making you fat. It may be making you anxious, depressed, or addicted to some sort of intoxicant or behavior or both. It may be limiting or even destroying your relationships and your ability to love freely and honestly.
Maybe like me it is doing all of these things.
Negative energy and emotional abuse creates illness in the body and dysfunction in the mind.
You may decide to do nothing about this.
I began to do much better with my return to school and for the most part my life took on the contours of normal college ups and downs. There were definitely challenges, especially regarding money and I was often fearful of not being able to support myself.
My father was unhappily paying my tuition and rent. He sent me a check for the exact rent amount every month in a plain white envelope with no greeting which pained and humiliated me every time. I was responsible for food, utilities, and my car payment and so I worked in a small neighborhood restaurant as a waitress to make enough money. I was satisfied with this and not resentful. Today I understand given my upbringing and my father’s ample means that what I experienced was further energetic injury.
A couple years after this I became the caretaker of my alcoholic brother Alan. I was 21 and he was 18. Like me his academic record was poor. I used the credibility I had developed in the English Department of my university to win approval for his taking a class with a revered professor of mine, Bryant Mangum. My brother was smart, with the most wonderfully sly, acerbic wit. He did good work and impressed Dr. Mangum. Alan was also a talented musician and a writer. He had many gifts.
Unfortunately Alan’s alcoholism was extreme and he was unable to manage life. He died when he was twenty nine and I was thirty two.
Both the giver and the receiver of negative energy can heal reader. You can heal so you stop giving off negative energy and you can heal so you stop taking it in. To various degrees, we all have to do both of these things. We are all givers and receivers of energy.
In January of 1986 I met my husband Bruce in a history class called The Age of Total War. We sat down next to one another on the first day at a long bench table at about the middle of the room. We had our first charming conversation over account balances at the ATM in the student commons after class. One or the other of us said whoever had more money in their account had to buy coffee. We were both convinced we would be the one to lose and be treated to a coffee.
I can’t remember who had more money now but one of us had three dollars and the other had six. We enjoyed coffee and a laugh. Our relationship quickly accelerated, no doubt because of my neediness. I was desperate for stability and a sense of family and he and his family offered me both of these with loving, open arms.
By fall I was pregnant and we were married in November. We broke the news to our families and intended to quickly marry at the county courthouse but in a surprising turn of events, my father insisted on a wedding and planned and paid for every detail. It cost $1500. He allocated $3000 and gave me the balance not spent. This was a boon.
We had a small country church wedding, a little white clapboard steeple church with maybe about thirty people — just our families and a few close friends. Our tiny reception was at a renovated schoolhouse grange and to complete the unexpected thematic ensemble my mother had arrived the night before the ceremony with a 19th century white lace garden gown which fit like a glove and a wreath of white silk flowers to plop on my head over my objections. The whole thing rolled out like a storybook and was the perfect wedding for us. We just showed up.
This brings us back to the notion of contrasts and contradictions. The sad tale of woe I have told you is 100% true. This charming tale of a magical little wedding is also 100% true. Where does this leave us in keeping score and calculating emotional wins and loses?
This is the counting house and it doesn’t play well. The counting house approach leaves us stuck, confused, and unable to resolve traumas because for every wrong, there may be a right — or two rights or three — and nothing is clear or black and white in the calculation.
In the end we must recognize that healing is not about showing our scorecard or confronting another person about the wrongs done to us or demanding an apology or expecting contrition or remorse or acknowledgement of our suffering.
None of these things will heal us. To be sure they may mend relationships and even ease pain but these things will not heal us. We can only do that for ourselves.
Four years later in the fall of 1990 my brother Alan returned to my life in great need of help. He was alcoholic, destitute. I picked him up on a street corner, Grace and Lombardy, in downtown Richmond. I do not remember how he got there or where he had been living.
He had a brown paper bag with a toothbrush, a pocket comb, some toothpaste and nothing else. The first thing I did was take him for a haircut and buy him some clothes. Then I took him home. We took him in gladly.
My husband had developed a deep friendship with him when we had all lived together three years previously and despite the difficulties over alcohol that fractured our relationship then we felt no resentment toward him. We only wanted him to recover.
Unfortunately this is not what happened. The eight months that he lived with us were emotionally devastating and grueling. We swung on tightropes of emotion while his behavior grew increasingly self-destructive, recalcitrant and sneaky. A condition of our support was that he not drink and that he attend AA meetings but he continued to defy this contract and lie to us about drinking and meeting attendance.
He was never violent or angry only impossibly sad. My heart broke many times as he was unable to stop drinking. Finally it was clear he had to leave. Our goodbye was acrimonious and ugly. I was deeply hurt.
Facing our personal trauma is beyond hard. I understand so much more about this now than I ever possibly could watching my brother slowly crumble and die before my eyes.
At the time I was angry, resentful and impatient. I was not an alcoholic drinker at that point and had no frame of reference for the physical and mental compulsion of it and how it eats away at your reason and kills your soul despite your grasping vain attempts to pull it back from the clutches of this death.
I know all about that now.
At my age then — 28 — so young, I could not understand the emotional pain of facing mistakes — and my brother’s mistakes were graver than my own — among them a late term abortion for a young girlfriend, a pregnancy hidden too long when he was just fourteen; the witnessing of a brutal attack and rape of a young girl in the woods behind our house. His frustrated attempt at fending off the attacker, the stab wounds he suffered. My parents’ sending him away to an expensive military academy. Another pregnancy and the birth of a child, a little girl named Reilly we never knew. I could go on but I think you understand my point.
As I write this I am sad that I had no capacity to understand the energetic consequences of this pain then. I am buoyed by the knowledge that I did the best I could to help my brother given my limited emotional resources and I know he knew how much I loved him.
So I understand now that finding a way to safely and healthily integrate the reality of the damage you have done to yourself and others is monumentally challenging. I understand this and I have compassion for it.
This is why I do have understanding for those who choose not to do this work. I get that. It is hard. There were many times that I wanted desperately to make that choice. But the work is necessary. It is worth it. This is why we are here on the Earth Plane. I write about that in my essay Reclamation.
But let me tell you as plainly as I can that the travel to this new place is treacherous. It is a journey like no other. This is why it has been recorded throughout history in many different ways.
It is John of the Cross and the Dark Night of the Soul.
It is Christ on the cross.
It is the mystic in the shamanic moment.
It is me lying in my bed in a puddle of sweat, too weak to turn my body, nauseous, in pain, wishing to die but not wanting to, praying for the release from my physical and mental anguish, surrendering all of myself to this prayer, giving up everything for a chance to have a life worth living.
These are the things that were happening to me in our back bedroom while my husband told his mother on the phone that I was doing just fine. The journey that we take must needs be a solitary one. It is the only way.
What we face on this journey is the truth of our personal histories and ourselves. For many of us it will be a difficult tableau where visions of our worst deeds are on parade in a feedback loop.
I recognize that my account here borders on rhetorical extravagance. From the way I am rendering this it may appear that my deeds were perfectly awful. They were not. They were perfectly ordinary.
In fact I venture that they are the mistakes that most humans make.
Mistakes of neglect.
Mistakes of oversight.
Mistakes of imperfection.
Mistakes of emotional neediness and pride which I think are the same thing expressed differently.
They were ordinary mistakes.
Why they caused me so much pain is a matter of the soul and my particular energetic profile. My soul refused to participate in the mistake-making any longer. My soul had enough of my disease.
My soul decided I had had enough of my dysfunction.
This is what we might call soul-level conflict.
When I came to this realization two and a half years ago — eight years into my disabling illness — I finally understood what I had to do because I realized that I was strong — not weak as I had supposed.
I had to make a radical investment in my own divine biological integrity. I had to learn what my body needed naturally. Then I had to give it that and I had to heal myself by myself.
I had no idea where this would take me, how long the travel would be, or whether it would even work. But I made a commitment then to learn everything I could about energy medicine and the spirit — not in a traditionally religious sense at all — I had no interest in this — but rather in the sense of the energetic connection to what was happening in my body and mind which I believe to be a matter of spirit. Spirit illness.
So I read.
I thought for endless, endless hours on my couch or in my bed.
I often barely had the strength to walk across the room so my movements were limited. I could not tolerate sensory input, so music, television or video distraction was impossible. In fact the capacity for reading had only recently returned and I could manage only small stretches of it for quite some time.
I was unable to easily move a pen across the page to write and my thoughts were confused and chaotic much of the time. My chief companion during this time was, blessedly, my talent as a craftswoman.
I am a skilled knitter and embroiderer. I was able to use my crafting skills to pass tortured hours over several years. I knit stuffed animals and outfits for my new granddaughter. I embroidered with no plans to finish.
If you have read this so far perhaps you have developed an understanding of me and can imagine why this soul-level conflict was so painful. I am deeply sensitive. I am good. I care about others. I value others’ rights to healthy experiences. I value others’ rights to abundance and joy.
Yet I was responsible for creating an environment in which my family could not optimally thrive. My daughters will say I am being too harsh on myself but they are wrong. They will say I am being too harsh on myself because they have no idea of the true glory of my person. I have never been myself.
I am not suggesting that I am responsible for other people’s happiness or success. That is not it at all. What I am responsible for is myself. I am responsible for ensuring that my presence in other people’s lives is loving, generative and productive.
I am responsible for ensuring that my presence in other people’s lives is loving, generative and productive.
If it is not then I am in a state of disease.
If it is not then I am in a state of disease.
If it is not then I am in a state of disease.
I need to heal that. I still have a way to go to reach my goals in this regard. I still have emotional and energetic resistances that I do not understand that prevent me from reaching out to my dear family in the way they deserve.
I understand that it is my responsibility to figure out why this is so and heal myself.
Further I understand that this difficulty is not a permanent flaw of my character. I recognize now that I can heal whatever is hurting me and preventing my optimal expressions of love.
I can figure this out through cleansing and protecting my body and mind and through a process of study, reflection and prayer and movement.
It very well may be that I will never understand the exact or specific incidents that contributed to this damage to my person. I was not born this way reader. I was born perfect and whole, joyful, full of faith and enthusiasm for life.
So were you.
The wonderful thing is that I do not have to figure out why I was damaged. I can heal my physical body, my energetic body and my spirit without this sort of empirical understanding.
Doing so requires no monetary investment and the participation of no other person. I have found that a process I call ‘witnessing’ is a powerful cathartic for all participants. This is witnessing reader.
I am going to witness now about intoxication — so hear me out.
If you are drinking every day you are intoxicating yourself because you have unresolved trauma you need to take a look at and release.
I mean if you are drinking every day you are intoxicating your life away. I know all about it.
After my brother’s death — unbelieveably — I began to drink. I wasn’t much of a drinker before. I drank beer and then I drank wine. I never drank a whole lot — but I have discovered I have an energy system that is intolerant to intoxicants. So a couple beers or a couple glasses of wine and sometimes three were too much. I had periods of moderate bingeing. I needed to abstain completely. I didn’t know this.
So after my brother’s death I became a problem drinker within a couple years and I had a drinking problem for the next twenty years. Now ten of those twenty years I was sober and an active member of AA — in and out — revolving doors. I know a lot about drinking problems. Let me witness for you.
If you are drinking every day you are a problem drinker with unresolved trauma. There is a wonderful life waiting for you in sobriety and spiritual growth and I am encouraging you to put that bottle down and meet yourself now.
That is what I did.
At the time of my brother’s death in 1995 he lived near my mother on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. When he lived with me he had found employment at a local bookstore which was close enough to my house that he could ride a bike considering he had no valid driver’s license due to drinking infractions. At the bookstore he met a gifted woman with a difficult past.
She is a brilliant woman with enormous strength. At the time of this writing she has successfully raised four children alone and is expecting her first grandchild, my brother Alan’s grandson.
At the time my brother died his partner and he had just discovered a pregnancy. Alan died not knowing that she was carrying twins. My nephew and niece were born the April following his death in October 1995.
Alan’s death in many ways was not a surprise. After all as evident here he was in a deadlock battle with alcohol, fueled by the demons that plagued him. My brother was a sensitive man and the energetic insults he received from my father were enormous. I don’t know what happened in that relationship or why. There is no conceivable reason for any of it. No one addressed this behavior.
My father has a cruel dimension to his character and it is one dimension. This makes it challenging to address yet it still does damage. Perhaps you also have a relative or friend who is special and gifted in many ways but who demonstrates a particular characteristic that is hurtful. For my father it has been a kind of abrupt cruelness that seems to come out of nowhere taking you unawares and leaving you speechless. Only upon reflection do you understand that you have been attacked.
Remember this is common. My story is not unusual. I may be unusually sensitive but I have come to understand there is a reason for this. I am bringing this story to you so that we can heal.
I am not unusual. This is a story about us.
As a child, teenager and young adult I had no ability to process any of this behavior from my father and even as an adult I am often defenseless against it.
It is a miasma. You breath it in like air.
These sorts of things happen and people gasp and sweep them away. That is a problem. We need to stop doing that. We need to speak up and protect ourselves and protect one another. Say something.
You see I am only writing this story because I want people to heal and live lives of emotional abundance and joy on a new kind of Earth. In order to accomplish this I must present my family to you because in reading my story you will take account of your own and perhaps confront what you need to confront and this confrontation can be healthy and healing for you.
It can be done in joy and love and with the certitude of relief and healing.
On my brother’s fourth birthday we were celebrating with presents and cake on the back patio. My brother was excitedly opening his gifts. One gift was a Peanuts’ Snoopy snow globe.
As my brother shook the globe for the first time it fell from his hands and smashed on the flagstone. My father exclaimed “This Goddamned kid breaks everything he touches.”
That is a brief story of a kind of emotional abuse and negative energetic miasma — lightening fast. Nothing was said or done. That is the problem. It was disturbing enough to me at seven years old that it is an indelible memory.
This requires our attention. This was an opportunity for healing. We must speak out.
I am a writer and I know my interpretation of this event is extravagant only in the sense of assigning it meaning. It is a description. The meaning assigned to it is separate. That is how the energy exchange works.
One person’s nightmare is another person’s regular day.
Did it mean anything at all reader? It happened just as I state it but this presentation seems somehow unfair, doesn’t it? Perception is unique to the individual. One person’s nightmare is another person’s regular day.
But you see it really doesn’t matter whether the meaning I assign to it is fair or accurate. What matters is that I felt it was. This is my perception and my perception is my reality and the energy I receive from it regardless of any facts or objective truth. This is how negative energy exchanges work
I didn’t mean anything by that Patricia Anne. We have all heard this. That was not my intention Patricia Anne. Right. Duly received.
One person’s nightmare is another person’s regular day.
We need to confront energetic trauma and dysfunctional family relationships. We need to confront the poison miasma. We need to reunite our families in love, light, truth, and compassion. We need to be kind to one another. We need to see clearly. We need to see better.
I understand that often our attitudes towards others are not consciously or intentionally malicious. I hear that all the time. It goes like this in a hostile voice: I didn’t mean that. That wasn’t my intention. That does. not. matter. reader.
Our negative attitudes towards others are energies that nevertheless are communicated. Hostile silence is an energy. It communicates. Energy communicates. This makes us responsible for our thoughts, words, actions, and behaviors.
All of them.
Our feelings, thoughts and emotions are not private just because we do not speak or act on them.
Malevolvence is an energy. Energy communicates ahead of action. It matters.
If we are interested in developing an energy of unconditional love, then we must learn to release resentment and ill will, hostility, anger and ugliness towards others.
These are the malevolent energies that create illness and dysfunction. I believe that most people are like me. Most people do not want to hurt other people. So this is what we do — you and I — reader.
We say No more.
We say Do better human.
We say that to ourselves and we say that to others. We stand up against energetic abuse and the poison miasma — we say absolutely no more. We rise up in love and compassion. We take back our lives and our right to live in love, light, truth and compassion.
We are here on the Earth Plane to live lives of abundance and joy not lives of intoxication and conflict. I know you can take back your life.
That is New Earth. We can begin this at any time. We can choose to live in community in love and compassion at any time. Isn’t that wonderful?
The Shift to New Earth. Let’s go. I will meet you there.