You, stand in my danger*

Dear great granddaughter,

I’ve something soul-saving to tell you. There will be some in your life who will try to diminish you, to discount you, to degrade you.  You must not let them.

You may think, ‘Grandmother, now why would I let anyone do that to me?’ and I will tell you, “It’s simple! Love!”  It’s not necessarily that we love the other so much that we overlook his or her disrespect of us, but that we want to be loved, need to be loved, so badly that we allow it, are even complicit in its happening.

It usually goes something like this. There are these parts of us, deep parts of us, sacred parts of us, even wise parts of us that come out to speak, or to play, or to wonder, but they come out in the presence of ones who cannot understand them for some reason. Perhaps they too have had those parts of themselves belittled and shamed so that they believe them to be despicable in some way or have even forgotten that they had them too, once upon a time.

Often this person has some power over us. Perhaps they are older, perhaps they are many (for we humans often seek validation in groups), perhaps they are defenders of the culture. Perhaps they are mothers or brothers or uncles, boyfriends or girl cliques, spouses or teenagers, or the middle-aged children of aged mothers. (we do not here, at the beginning of the 21st century, live in a culture that honors the wisdom of old women) The thing that they will all have in common is that you will desperately want them to love you or at least to accept you. We all want that, you know.

Now, I will tell you a secret about what happens inside when those precious parts of yourself are subjected to scorn. Other parts of you, which never want you to experience such rejection and humiliation again, seek to protect you from such pain. And ironically, they take on the voice of the tormentor, who rejected you, in order to keep you silent, in order to keep you small, in order to keep you safe.

Gradually, or suddenly, depending upon the severity of the attack, you learn to act in ‘appropriate’ ways in social settings… in your family or school, community, work or church environment. You don’t speak of soulful things at the dinner table, you don’t speak of wonder at school, or beauty, or terror, or meaning, or dreams, or yearnings. You find yourself speaking the acceptable language or not speaking at all.   You become numb and you settle for the lowest common denominator….. tolerance (or worse – judgment and blame) instead of compassion, small talk instead of conversation, material instead of meaning, sex instead of lovemaking.

Of course, each time this occurs and you recognize what you’ve done, then a new self-recrimination (shame) gets added to the pile of other-recrimination, for you may begin to despise that you speak one thing, or behave in a certain way, when your heart or your soul are desiring to speak or to act in another.

Oh, I think this is a very old problem, for we have stories and myths and religions that speak of it. We are reminded to take care where we cast our pearls, to ponder certain kinds of things in our hearts, and to place what is sacred behind the veil of the holy of holies. We receive stories of hidden treasures and lost souls. We read the words of 2000 year old saints who lament that they ‘do not understand at all what they do, for what they want to do they do not, but what they hate they do’.

There is a current film that contains a simple line that strikes me each time. In the story, a young woman is trying desperately to fit in and be accepted by her fiance’s large family at her first Christmas with them. They are rather ruthless with her, in the insidious way that families can be, thinly veiling their ridicule in sarcasm, and she winds up crying out to her lover in privacy, ‘I am not a totally ridiculous person!’

Yes, that is how it often feels when we risk revealing ourselves and are subject to derision. It hurts terribly, something in us rises in anguish, but then we recoil.  We feel terribly lonely in a crowded room. We long to be known and fear we are defective at once. Too often what happens is this — we join them (didn’t i tell you that humans seek validation in groups?)

I notice this in myself when my humor turns to the self-deprecating kind, or when I apologize incessantly  for being me. I notice it when I believe in my inadequacy instead of my courage. I notice it when I take on the image of the other’s belittlement of me. I notice it in group settings when I withdraw, when I am exhausted from ‘tending the fires’ of another misunderstanding me. I notice it when I lose connection with my own center, my own wisdom, not speaking my truth but trying to bend it to fit another’s need.   I notice it when I experience that sinking, drowning feeling afterwards.

Sometimes it feels as if there is an irreverent teenaged girl inside of me who is disgusted and embarrassed by her mother’s presence and is rashly berating me! She is so afraid of not fitting in, of not being liked. That mother, whom she fears and despises and dismisses entirely, is my own wise-woman self.

Now what to do about that?!? …..if you’ve gotten this far in life and discover your deepest self to be utterly discounted…. when you realize that you are also the one who diminishes yourself out of fear?

When you finally are aware enough to recognize her, then it is time to be your own mother at last. Take her by the hand and let her see that you are ready to own your own wisdom, to possess your own soul, to be who you are.  Show her that you are ready to honor and protect her this time. After all, you are the only one of the two of you who knows that the alternative is to live in a fearful place, devoid of true intimacy, lacking connection to true love, grace, power, beauty. Lost to yourself. She cannot see that. She has known nothing else. She’ll need you to lead her to safety.

“Spirituality is really a deep sense of belonging to life, of finding it meaningful on every level. Spirituality is the same as healing and is about coming into right relationship, especially with ourselves, so that our insides match our outsides—ie our values and dreams show up in how we actually live our life’ – Joan Borysenko

*clarissa pinkola estes, in the dangerous old woman.

” the word danger in its oldest form meant to protect, “You. Stand in my danger, in the aura surrounding me that is funded by my heart, my soul and my spirit that says certian things of this earth are so precious they can never be allowed to be harmed or made to vanish. You stand in my danger because i will protect, i will help, i will create, i will defend, i will unleash, i will hold back, i will restrain, i will open up, i will carve doors in walls, i will do whatever it takes. You stand in my danger. She is the protectoress, the one who takes care of those who have been conquered and raises them back up again, she is not only passionate, but she’s observant and experienced. she will protect anything of goodness, anything that has the merest spark, the tiniest spark at the end of the wood, she will breathe on it and bring it back to life.”-

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