High chair tyrants

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Childofmine, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    This morning, a devotional I receive by email daily has this post---the author is Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, about kids who never grow up, a subject we talk about here every day. As many of us are experiencing, this is our life for many years, but finally, thankfully, there comes a day, and we are ready to split off from our now-adult child. It is the hardest work of this world, because for whatever reason, it didn't happen as it does for many others, slowly, over time, over the years. And I like that term: High chair tyrants...it really fits.

    "Splitting from Others
    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

    Ideally we begin life as “holy innocents” in the Garden, with a primal connection to Being and parents whose loving eyes mirror us as the beloved. Good mothers give us a primal experience of life as union. But we have to leave the Garden. We can’t stay there, letting mother gaze at us forever. We begin the process of individuation, which includes at least four major splits. They are four ways that the mental ego starts taking control and engineering life. Spirituality, pure and simple, is overcoming these four splits.

    The first split is very understandable. We split ourselves from other selves. We see our mommy and our daddy, and they’re over there, and we’re over here. I start looking out at life with myself as the center point. It’s the beginning of egocentricity. My ego is the center; what I like, what I want, what I need is what matters. And I’m going to let Mama know what I want! It is so nice to have a personal slave for a few years, but some never get over it.

    These are the “highchair tyrants,” the two-year-olds who are totally egocentric. So God made them cute and adorable so we would put up with them and feed their “narcissistic fix” (just enough so they are indeed fixed!). Still, they have begun a terrible lie: I’m separate from the rest of the world. But they have to do it. It’s a necessary splitting so they can form an appropriate ego identity. This continues and even builds through the early twenties, or until we love one person or thing more than ourselves. During this time life is all about me and searching out what makes me look good and feel good. Hopefully you have moved beyond this by the second half of life, but sadly, many never do."
  2. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    This is helpful to me, COM. I am thinking about that, thinking about the nature of the split that was never completed for my kids. There is an elemental truth here, I can feel it.

    It has something to do with the fear thread Recovering started.

    Something to do with the nature of fear, and with the splitting away that happens with non-difficult child kids.

    I wonder whether, if we could determine where the split should have happened and did not...would that make a difference, I wonder?

    Or maybe this is that enabling part of me, desperately swarming over something new, something I haven't tried, yet.

  3. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    I know, Cedar. I wonder if I had been able to set better boundaries earlier, when the stakes weren't so high, if that would have made a difference.

    I guess we will never know. We can only do the best we can with what we know, right now.

    We did pretty well, Cedar, given what we were dealing with and how out of our league it was and is, we loving moms of difficult children.

    We didn't know.

    And today, there is still a lot we don't know.

    We are strangers in a strange land, doing the very best we can do. We are walking forward, a little at a time, not sure of the path ahead of us, listening, learning and trying----still---to do something good, both for ourselves and our difficult child.
  4. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    A continuation...Wow. This is huge.

    Splitting Life from Death
    Wednesday, February 26, 2014

    The second split is life from death. It comes about when you first experience the death of someone you have known. Maybe it’s your dog. Maybe it’s Grandma. And your mental ego starts separating life and death. There are living people, and there are people who have already passed over and they are gone. So you try to manufacture a life for yourself that will not include death (read: failure, sadness, losing, humiliation, etc.).

    Almost all male initiation rites insisted that the boy had to concretely face head-on this kind of dying. Sometimes the young men actually had to dig their grave and sleep in it for a night in an effort to begin to understand that life and death are not two, but include one another. If you split entirely, you spend your whole life trying to avoid any kind of death (anything negative, uncomfortable, difficult, unfamiliar, dangerous, or demanding). Much of humanity has not gone through its initiation or “baptism.”

    That’s why Jesus says the rich man has an almost impossible task in understanding what he’s talking about (Luke 16). If you’ve stayed in this split kind of thinking—that your whole life’s purpose is to stay comfortable and happy, frequenting five-star restaurants and hotels, and never suffering any inconvenience—then you are going to put off resolving this split until the last months of life. But at some point, you’re finally going to have to see that this is not a truthful naming of reality. You can’t always avoid the negative.

    Many of the saints and mystics, like Francis of Assisi, just dive into facing the unfamiliar, the foreign, and the scary ahead of time. Francis called it “poverty,” which might not be the way we use the word today. For him it meant facing the “poor” side of everything and finding your riches there. What an amazing turnaround! Henceforth, failure is almost impossible.
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  5. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    Part three of four...showing the natural progression of ourselves as we mature

    Splitting the Mind
    from the Body and the Soul
    Thursday, February 27, 2014

    The third split is when you split your mind from your body and soul and make your mind the engineer, the control tower. You make your mind “you.” Almost all people do! As Descartes said during the Enlightenment, “I think, therefore I am.” This is considered the low point of Western philosophy, but actually he was being very honest and observant! Moreover, when you say, “I think,” you largely mean only with the left brain, which has overtaken the Western World since the sixteenth century. Before that, the right brain was often dominant in most of the world. The right brain receives reality in a holistic way, in a symbolic and metaphorical way. It receives the whole without eliminating anything.

    When we split our mind from our body and soul and live primarily in our mind, the body gets underplayed and dismissed, and the soul is not even recognized. Even worse, our sense of shame and guilt localizes in our body. (I’m afraid Paul’s use of the word “flesh”—instead of “ego”—may be partly responsible for our thinking of the body as inferior.) Jesus’ statement for holism, or holiness (and they are the same word), is “You are to love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole soul, your whole body, and your whole strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37). He’s clearly trying to describe a way of knowing God, knowing yourself, and knowing the moment. In Jesus, there’s no enmity between body, soul, and mind. Jesus’ psychology and anthropology was really quite up-to-date. But as my wise Franciscan history professor said, “The church has been more influenced by Plato than it has been by Jesus!” (In Plato’s view, body and soul are enemies; in Jesus’ teachings they are one.)

    This third split is the very one we try to resolve in contemplation. Deep inner journeys of prayer are one clear and recommended way to overcome this split. (Great love and great suffering are actually the quickest ways, but they normally cannot be sustained at the unitive level.) Contemplation is the mental discipline that detaches you, even neurologically, from your addiction to your way of thinking in general, and your left brain in particular. You stop believing your little mind is the whole show, you stop trusting it as fully adequate, and you start venturing out into much broader ways of knowing, which frankly are much more compassionate because they are not dualistic.
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  6. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I read once that the mind is a cruel master but an obedient servant. Your devotional points to the split, particularly in the Western culture where the mind rules...............and our humanity suffers. Fear then runs us.

    It's an odd dichotomy for me that as I become more vulnerable, less controlled, more present, less preoccupied with my own story line, more able to withstand the basic uncertainty of life, I am less fearful. Underneath all of that control and that "fixed identity" the inauthentic self, the quests for perfection, the enabling............. is fear, running the show.

    "Often the first blow to the fixed identity is precipitated by a crisis, when things fall apart in your life. But actually it's your fixed identity that's crumbling. The purpose of the spiritual path is to unmask,to take off our armor. When that happens it feels like a crisis. Buddha taught that the fixed identity is the cause of our suffering. Looking deeper, we could say the real cause of our suffering is not being able to tolerate uncertainty--and thinking that it's perfectly sane, perfectly normal, to deny the fundamental groundlessness of bring human." (Living Beautifully)

    This is an amazing journey we're on, through all the pain we share about our children, we are also sharing this opportunity to awaken, to open our hearts and be able to love in a very different way. I am in awe of this.
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  7. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Child, this is the way difficult child daughter has been talking since this began, two years ago. At one point, she shaved her head and had tattoos to open the chakras. Even now, she interprets everything about the path she is on through that same spiritual interpretation.

    Maybe Francis was a difficult child? We never do hear what the moms thought of their sainthood bound children....

    We are so fortunate to have one another, here on this site. It's as though there are many of us walking this path, each sharing what she knows, what she learns, easing the way for the others.

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  8. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I'm sure that if we were to ask from their mothers and fathers 90 % of saints (and notable artists and scientists that made discoveries that changed the world, and other remarkable historical people) were difficult children. Often doing something truly remarkable involves breaking so many boundaries that it is bound to make any mother worried out of their mind.

    Of course, on the other hand, very small percentage of difficult children ever achieves any remarkable.

    But still, there is a reason difficult children exist. Things have to be broken and changed at times.
  9. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    #4 of four...

    Splitting the Idealized Self
    from the Shadow Self
    Friday, February 28, 2014

    The fourth split is when you split your acceptable self from your unacceptable self. You build a persona, a self-image that is based upon what most people want from you, reward you for, and what you choose to identify with. At the same time, you repress and often totally deny your “shadow self.” Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself and what you do not want others to see. Jesus simply calls it “the log in your own eye” (Matthew 7:4). It’s fully there, but you just can’t see it. And even worse, this unworthy instrument becomes that by which you see others (which is why you tend to dislike people who are just like you!). “The lamp of the body is the eye” (Matthew 6:22), Jesus says, and you need to clean the lens to see truthfully. Much of the work of spirituality is becoming aware of the biases, prejudices, and limitations through which you see the moment. It is a lifetime of painful work. It never ceases, because the ego never totally abandons its throne.

    Jesus was a brilliant psychologist. He really was. He says you must clean not just the outside of the cup, but mostly the inside (Matthew 23:26). I would say that the major reason why so much religion is a waste of time is that it is mostly about external actions, rituals, and behaviors, whereas Jesus focuses very strongly on the internal (attitude, motivation, intention) and actually minimizes the external. Only an inner life of prayer helps you to go where Jesus invites us.

    This split from the shadow self reaches full force in the teenage years, but many never recover. Young people are just so eager to be acceptable to their peer group and to “look good,” but unfortunately a lifelong game has begun. Carl Jung said that people who just look outside are dreaming, but people who look inside are “awakening.”

    Both the idealized self and the shadow self can blind one to their best and deepest self. This, ironically, is a “field of both weeds and wheat” (Matthew 13:24f) that for some magnificent reasons God not only fully accepts but even loves. It is only we who refuse to live in this field. Rumi, the Sufi poet, beautifully says, “I will meet you there!”
  10. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    This is talking about the working on myself which is a full-time job. Before all of "this" with my exhusband who is an alcoholic (now in recovery) and my son, a drug addict, I thought I was a pretty darn good person. After all, I wasn't doing THOSE things. I thought I was the "good" person and they were the "bad" people.

    Sure I wasn't perfect, but I was pretty darn awesome (smile, lol)! And I was really different from them. Really different.

    Wow, was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    Once I started hearing and being open to the idea that I needed to make a MAJOR SHIFT in my thinking and my attitude and start focusing on myself instead of my ex and later, my difficult child, I started to do the hard work of uncovering my own character defects, i.e., my "shadow self."

    And wow, there is a LOT of work to do. And we are so much the same.

    But first, I had to even hear what I was being told and I can tell you, I rejected it completely at first.

    What, I, the long-suffering good person that was holding it all together by the skin of my teeth....I NEEDED WORK? That thought was completely hurtful and insulting to me at first. What about THEM? (the eternal focus on others, not myself, much more comfortable)

    Anyway, anyway, fast forward over a long long time, and finally, slowly, I started getting it.

    We all have work to do. Them, us, me. Especially me.

    I am a full time job. Leaving NO TIME for worrying, controlling and managing other people, even my own precious difficult child son.

    And as I continue to do this hard work on my shadow self, I see those defects more clearly. I am willing to be more honest and tell the truth about myself. I am willing to work to change myself. I am willing to forgive myself.

    I am changing so much. I told SO the other day, you are getting me at a really good time! We have been together for three years, three years of a lot of change in me.

    All of those changes have contributed to a healthy relationship with me and SO, much better than it would have been with the old me.

    I am thankful today for my past experiences. I wish the hurt wasn't so profound, for me and for the difficult children in my life. Perhaps the lessons and changes will be as profound---that is my hope.
  11. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    I had to post this...this is further confirmation that the path we are all trying hard to take had a spiritual foundation and that God has planned this for us. I see this evidence all around me. My difficult child MUST answer the question of his own significance. I did all I could to help him but he has today chosen a path that tells me he does not value himself. His addiction is what he values. Unless and until he stops, and sees that HE himself is worthy of all things good, and gets ready to fight the fight, nothing will change. And I have learned this lesson myself in the past four years, at this AGE. What in the world took me so long? I was putting others' significance way ahead of my own. I was not as significant as they were. Today, I am as significant as they are, and that is a blessing. We must all walk the path. Some of the paths are rockier than others. As he says below, we can't "do a nonstop flight to the second half of life by reading about it..." Or having somebody else make it smooth for us. This is so good. This is what we are all talking about here, every day.

    Container and Contents
    Monday, March 3, 2014

    The task of the first half of life is to create a proper container for your life and answer the first essential questions: “What makes me significant?” “How can I support myself?” and probably “Who will I go with?”

    The task of the second half of life is, quite simply, to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver. The container is not an end in itself, but exists for the sake of your deeper and fullest life, which you largely do not know about yourself! How could you? You have not been there yet.

    The two halves of life are cumulative and sequential, and both are very necessary. You cannot do a nonstop flight to the second half of life by reading about it. Grace must and will edge you forward. Only you can do your own journey; no one can do it for you. If you try to skip the first journey, you will never see its real necessity and also its limitations; you will never know why this first container must fail you, the wonderful fullness of the second half of the journey, and the relationship between the two.

    Once a person has transcended and included the earlier stages, he or she is able to have a patient understanding of the “juniors” on the first part of the journey, because “I was there once!” That is precisely what makes such people elders. Higher stages of consciousness always empathetically include the lower, or they are not higher stages!
  12. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Wow, I love this! Container and contents, it is such a helpful image to apply to all the things like boundaries, responsibility and choices, etc. that I struggle with understanding every day. Thanks for this!
  13. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    Another good one today from Richard Rohr....motives as in "What are my motives here?" is something that two friends in Al-Anon have taught me is very important to my own honesty and growth. Rohr echoes that. Food for thought.

    Purifying Motivation
    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    Jesus tells us to give alms, and fast, and pray secretly (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18). These are the three religious disciplines honored by most historical religions. Whenever you perform a religious action publicly, it enhances your image as a good, moral person and has a strong social payoff. Jesus’ constant emphasis is on interior religiosity, on purifying motivation and intention. He tells us to clean the inside of the dish instead of being so preoccupied with cleaning the outside, with looking good (Matthew 23:25-26). The purifying of our intention and motivation is the basic way that we unite our inner and our outer worlds. (Please read that twice!)

    All through the spiritual journey, we should be asking ourselves, “Why am I doing this? Am I really doing this for God, for truth, or for others? Or am I doing it for hidden reasons?” The spiritual journey could be seen as a constant purification of motive until I can finally say, “I have no other reason to do anything except love of God and love of neighbor. And I don’t even need people to know this.” When I can say this I have total and full freedom. I can no longer be bought off! Finally I realize that my life is not about me. It’s about Love.
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  14. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I agree. Also, agree about cleansing the vessel from the inside. I love this. I would add that our lives seem to be about the challenge of recognizing hatred in its myriad forms, small and large, and shining light on these concepts, on these belief systems that have somehow taken root within us.

    Thank you for posting, COM.

    You have given me a new way of looking.

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  15. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I just got this part.

  16. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Purifying the vessel from the inside....

    I have been reading Eckhardt Tolle, today.

    I am reading, now, something similar to your quote about cleansing the vessel from within, COM. Tolle describes the fruition of this practice as infusing spirituality into every daily activity through truly becoming present to what it is we are doing.

    Just really being there.

    Which is what I have been trying to do while watching the sun rise. It turns out to be harder than you would think. Almost as though there were something heavily at work against the clarity of it.

    More defenses, afraid to let go, afraid to be seen....

    Which makes me think of Brene Brown's "seeking, and riding, the edge of discomfort."

    I like this so much I came back to this post today just to read it again, just to be certain that you said what I thought you said.

    I even told husband about it.

    It is true, COM. That is the reason to work the spiritual practices. I never was much into "enlightenment" for its own sake, though it does seem to happen.

    But oh, to be free like that!

  17. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    This is another good one and in sync with what we are dealing with, within ourselves and our difficult children. To me, this is in line with the thinking about being stronger in the broken places. The light shines through the cracks in each of us. I think I had to be broken at this level in order to see the things I needed to work on, within myself. And I'm 57 years old! It didn't happen before now. Rohr talks about the two halves of our lives: first half and then second half. Often, we are so busy in the first half, just surviving, work, spouse, kids, laundry. We are running as fast as we can run, and we are so tired. It's in the second half of our lives that we can stop, take a good hard long look at ourselves and take stock. Many don't, according to Rohr. They just keep rockin' on , doing the same things they did in the first half. We, because of having to come to terms with severe, ongoing, unrelenting despair, watching those we love so very dearly, even more than we love ourselves, destroy themselves. And not being able to do one single solitary thing to do to stop it. They, and we, have a chance, right here, right now, to learn something profound about ourselves, about life and about God. Did God cause this? I don't believe for one single second that the All-Loving God wants this---I believe he is weeping with us. He is holding us as we despair. He is right here. And he is with our difficult children. He is standing beside them, walking down the street with them, in the abandoned house with them as they sleep. He is weeping with them as they struggle to survive. What do we make of this? That is what we are trying to figure out, and this board is such a blessed tool in helping me deal with this every day, every hour. Thank you all.

    Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

    The Path of Descent

    God Chooses the Little Ones
    Monday, March 31, 2014

    From the very beginning, God is able to use unlikely figures, and in one way or another, they are always unable, inept, unprepared, and incapable. The biblical text often shows them to be “powerless” in various ways: Sarah and Abraham, Moses, Rachel and Rebecca, David, Jeremiah, Job, and Jesus himself are some of the clearest examples. God didn’t pick the Egyptians; God picked the Israelites, an enslaved people in Egypt. In each case, there needs to be a discovery of a new kind of power by people who do not have power.

    The bottom, the edge, the outsider, as we see in the Bible, is the privileged spiritual position. In a word, that is why the biblical revelation is revolutionary and even subversive. It is clearly disestablishment literature, yet has largely been used by establishments, which is at the heart of our interpretative problem.

    The so-called “little ones” (Matthew 18:6) or the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3), as Jesus calls them, are the only teachable and “growable” ones according to him. It seems to be God’s starting place, as it is in the Twelve-Step program, because until we admit “that we are powerless,” the Real Power will not be recognized, accepted or even sought.

    Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 89-90

    Gateway to Silence:
    When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
  18. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    Another gem in this Lenten season...Easter is on the other side of the wilderness!

    Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

    The Path of Descent

    Stumbling and Falling
    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Sooner or later, if you are on any classic “spiritual schedule,” some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources. At that point, you will stumble over a necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it (Isaiah 8:14). You will and you must “lose” at something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-God-Grace-Mystery can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further and larger journey.

    We must stumble and fall, I am sorry to say. We must be out of the driver’s seat for a while, or we will never learn how to give up control to the Real Guide. It is the necessary pattern. Until we are led to the limits of our present game plan, and find it to be insufficient, we will not search out or find the real source, the deep well, or the constantly flowing stream. Alcoholics Anonymous calls it the Higher Power. Jesus calls this Ultimate Source the “living water” at the bottom of the well (John 4:10-14).

    The Gospel was able to accept that life is tragic, but then graciously added that we can survive and will even grow from this tragedy. This is the great turnaround! It all depends on whether we are willing to see down as up; or as Jung put it, that “where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold.” Lady Julian of Norwich said it even more poetically: “First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!”

    Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,
    pp. 58, 65-68
  19. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I read something like that once, COM. "And you must remember that Christians experience Good Friday from the perspective of Easter."

    It went something like that. At the time I read it, I did not know I would remember it for the rest of my life, so I didn't write it down, and cannot give you a reference or an author. But the sentiment echoes your posting so clearly, COM.

    I am not well versed in religious knowledge, COM. Do you know what Mary's experience was, what she thought, how she survived what was to happen to her child?

    I feel such a desperate sense of loss, sometimes.

  20. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    I'm no scholar either Cedar, even though I have done a lot of Bible study. The more I do, the more I realize how much I don't know and how much there is to learn.

    And there is presumably a lot that isn't reported in the Bible. I do believe that Mary was in mortal pain over what happened to her son, even though she knew from the beginning that he was Divine.

    He was still her son.

    What a metaphor for we moms and our difficult children. If Mary can endure it...