Tag Archives: Mother

No Blame

“[We] are in the world to train [our]selves to be unbiased witnesses, so as to understand the mystery of ourselves and relish the exultation of finding what we really are…” – don Juan Matus*

That anxious time of year again…

Every year since I was very little, probably before I started school, I attended the December birthday party of a girl I knew. Our mothers were friends. She did not live in my neighborhood but she did attend the same Catholic School I did.

A lot of kids got invited, girls from school and girls from her neighborhood. The basement rec room at her house was packed with kids, parents and siblings, grandparents and anyone else who showed up. It was always a big affair. There was a table for presents, another table for birthday cake and ice cream, drinks, plates, snacks, etc., pin the tail on the donkey on the wall, a semi circle of chairs upon which all the party goers sat to play the various guessing games that we played year after year, guessing how many marbles were in a jar, how many shoelaces in another, how many chocolate kisses in another, etc. My memories of these birthday parties were that they were anxious affairs.

Why such anxiety over a birthday party? Well, each year this same scenario played out: I’d get invited. On the day of the party I would get ready. Where was the present? There wasn’t one. My mother never provided me with a gift to bring to the party. Instead I’d make a card and 2 or 3 dollar bills would go into the card.

My mother did not drive so I would need to get a ride with another friend going to the party. There was one other girl in my neighborhood who usually attended the party too. Her mother, who also had seven kids, like mine, knew how to drive and never seemed to have a problem stuffing any number of kids into her car and driving wherever needed. I usually got a lift with this mother.

One year she forgot to pick me up. I waited a long time outside in the cold, standing in my driveway wondering where she was. I waited patiently, aware that this mother often ran behind schedule. I finally went inside to find out if my mother had indeed set up a ride for me. Just then the other mother drove up, greatly apologetic. They had headed off to the party only to realize they had forgotten me and then driven all the way back to get me.

I got into the car, clutching my homemade card and feeling bad for needing the ride, only to be greeted by my friend holding in her lap a big, beautifully wrapped gift with a pretty bow on it. I was immediately embarrassed. Why couldn’t my mother do something like that? I covered my meager card with my hands, wishing I had a better, more sensitive mother. Didn’t she know you brought gifts to a party? I don’t remember ever having brought a gift.

At the party, I snuck my card onto the table laden with gifts hoping that no one would notice. When present opening began I cringed, waiting for my card to be presented to the birthday girl, usually last, sometimes not even noticed. Sometimes I’d see it lying there on the table long after the presents had been opened, unseen. When the birthday girl did finally open my card she was always thrilled, “Yay! Money!” she’d say, with such enthusiasm I had to believe she meant it.

With the party over it was time to be anxious about getting home. I’d hope that the mother from my neighborhood remembered I was riding with her. One year she left without me and the party girl’s mom had to find me another ride. Another year I had to stay on for several hours for my father to pick me up on his way home from work.

I don’t blame my mother for any of this. She didn’t drive until I was much older and so it was necessary for us to depend on the kindness of our neighbors. I have so many memories of other people driving me places, even to the hospital in emergencies.  One time, when she was actually learning to drive, though I don’t think she had her license yet, my mother asked me to get into the car with her while she drove about 4 miles to the nearest little store to buy a few groceries.

She had me sit in the backseat with my littlest siblings while she bravely yet badly drove along the winding country roads to the store. She stalled the car, a stick shift, innumerable times, lurching down the road in gut-wrenching jolts, finally slamming on the brakes so hard as she arrived at the store that the car went into a long skid and we all went crashing to the floor. I remember thinking at the time—I was about 10 or 11—that when it came time for me to drive I would never drive like that!

When my mother did finally learn to drive she did so adequately enough, though she was a nervous driver and had numerous near misses. Several times while I was in the car with her she’d go off the shoulder on her side, veer over to the other lane, into oncoming traffic, and in just the last second somehow manage to swerve back into the right lane. “Well!” she’d say, and drive onward with a shake of her shoulders and a defiant aire.

One time she slammed on the brakes so hard I flew into the windshield and smashed it. I never knew why she’d done that, as we were about a quarter mile away from the car ahead of us. But this was the beginning of my ability to “see” and “know” things before they happened. I am convinced that this hard knock on the head activated my pineal gland and it has been active ever since.

As children we trust the adults in our lives to take care of us, to provide and teach us, to nurture and sustain us until we are ready to go off on our own. I vowed to myself quite often that I would do things differently from my mother, her bad driving and lack of party etiquette just two examples. But the truth was that for a long time I was depressed, felt deserted, abandoned, neglected by the mother I got, and I did blame her for a lot of things. Now I see the reality of her life, stuck in the country with a bunch of children, unable to drive and depressed, shy, and withdrawn herself. I have to admit, she did the best she could.

It wasn’t until I took responsibility for my own depression that things began to change. By taking on the challenges of my own life, I was able to release my mother from any blame and really go on to live my own life. And I discovered that: No Blame = Freedom. Freedom is truly releasing emotional attachment to what was, to what is. Freedom is pure acceptance of the truth, with judgments peeled away and lessons gained. Freedom carries no blame. Freedom is living as an “unbiased witness,” as don Juan suggests.

I learned how to do it right…

By the time I was in sixth grade there were no more big parties at my friend’s house. Instead there was a much smaller sleepover with just four girls that year. This was much more to my liking. The main point was to stay up all night. No problem, I couldn’t sleep anyway! Still anxious!

Oh, and at that party I brought a real gift, one I had paid for and wrapped myself, the kind of gift I knew you brought to a birthday party, tied in a big bow!


A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries

*The Fire From Within by Carlos Castaneda, p 152

Chuck’s Place: Modern Mana

Numinous energy…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

A burst of thunder! A flash of lightning! For a moment we are leveled in awe. Somewhere, out there, is an all-powerful energy far greater than the predictable flow of everyday life. For a moment we are seized by the divine, whether it be in terror or ecstasy.

The ancients took these outer manifestations in the heavens and on earth as the moods, judgments, and actions of the gods. For the modern ego the divine forces of nature have been explained and tamed by the human god of reason, though numinous encounters with nature quickly shatter its calm persona.

Mana is the term assigned to the energy of the divine. In our modern world that energy is projected onto people, places, and things. When a child is born, and for many subsequent years, mother is imbued with powerful mana. Who cannot recall either the experience or hidden craving for attention from mana mama!

A smile from mother deeply satisfies a need for validation: “I indeed belong in this world.” The glitter in her eye as she gives special attention to what the child is doing, saying, writing, drawing, singing,  etc. is utter communion with the golden nectar of divine mana.

As an infant grows and becomes a separate being the mother archetype, which at first included the entire world, differentiates and the mana of mother is distributed to other people, i.e., father, as well as to objects. In fact the well known special teddy bear or towel that the child attaches to for security and comfort was termed a “transitional object” by Winnicott.

By this he meant that the powerful mana originally totally projected onto mother now rubs off on the transitional object in the child’s possession, providing an intermediary container for the power and energy of mother that the child will eventually experience within the self-sufficient self.

The projection of divine mana in adult relationships often harkens back to this hunger for special attention first experienced in childhood. Adults often experience in others the divine mana which they are drawn to and are terrified of as well. All intimacy must work through the mana projections that lead to dependency and avoidance of connection that have their roots in mana projections.

Modern mana frequently is projected into substances that loosen the spirit’s confinement in the body and offer divine communion with mana through flights of the imagination and pleasurable shifts in perception and physical sensation. Food as well can take on a divine mana, which delivers pleasurable sensation, hunger relief, and a fulfilled self-contained wholeness.

Mana is often projected onto objects we absolutely must have. Amazon.com is really a major mana warehouse. Books are often filled with mana as we commune with information and plots that give us divine tension and satisfaction.

The crux of mana is divinity. Human animals appear programmed to find the divine spark of their own spirit selves reflected in the people, places, and things of this world. This striving for contact or union with the divine is ultimately our animal self seeking to discover and join with its spirit half.

Until we discover and recover our own mana in inner union we are led to follow its trail in encounters with significant transitional objects in this world. That is the magic of this world; it serves as the playing field for finding the divine through participation in life and relationship on the road to wholeness of body and spirit within.

May the force be with you,

Chuck


A blog by Chuck Ketchel, LCSW-R

Mother & Me

Seeking to become my own true self…
– Detail of artwork by Jan Ketchel

I have been writing stories about the imp inside me, the fun loving, bright being who never seemed afraid, who was impetuous and daring, who seemed to easily handle life and its iniquities. She was the light side of my normally quiet and withdrawn child self. Today I leave her for a more serious subject: Mother.

In his blog earlier this week Chuck wrote of a man’s relationship to mother and how crucial it is that he separate from her and go on into life fully available to have a true relationship with another person freed of his infantile attachments to mother. In the end he must return to mother and love her from his separateness in order to achieve full masculinity. Whether his mother was a good mother or a bad mother is not important; a man still needs to rid himself of his attachments to her if he is to truly individuate and wholly become who he is. For women it’s a different scenario.

Women have an initiation ceremony built into their DNA. Somewhere between the ages of 10 and 16 a female begins to menstruate. This is the initiation into womanhood. Like all women before them, every young girl has to accept and deal with monthly bleeding for a good deal of her adult life. Some initiation! It lasts a very long time! I remember reading a little booklet my mother gave me when I was about 11. The phrase “you’re a woman now” still sticks in my head. Just like that, I was a woman! Just like that I was like my mother. But I did not want to be like my mother!

I did not have a good witch for a mother. I got a bad witch for a mother. If you have read my books, and especially Place of No Pity, Volume 4 of The Recapitulation Diaries, you know what I’m talking about. She was harsh and neglectful, not the kind of mother I wanted, not the kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be. Nonetheless, she was the mother I got and the mother I had as a role model. I was however always at heart a kind and gentle soul, even when I was being an imp.

The shamans would call the type of mother I got a petty tyrant. A petty tyrant is someone whom you probably hate for what they do to you, for the way they torment and belittle you, but may later realize that they taught you a great deal about how the world works and, most importantly, about how you yourself work, as they relentlessly and cruelly force you to face what you are most afraid of, most angry about, most resentful about, etc. When you cease to blame them for all your problems you may begin to see just how good they are at making you confront every uncomfortable and disagreeable thing about yourself. The petty tyrants of the world are the projections of all that we must sift through if we are to achieve our wholeness. For a woman, the kind of mother I got presented quite a challenge.

During my childhood I dreamed about other mothers, wove fantasies about the perfect, loving mother, the caring being I longed to have in my life. These fantasies got me through a lot of terrible times, as I could always envision a good and comforting mother in times of need. These loving mothers, fantasized though they were, became good role models, based on my own feelings and perceptions of what a good mother would be like. So even though I got a bad witch for a mother I was able to construct images of good witches who came to my rescue when needed.

As I grew into adulthood I had to figure out how I was different from the mother I got, just as I had to figure out how I was like her. For I am, in many ways, just like my mother. It has taken me a long time and a lot of work to accept this fact, that I too have the bad witch inside me. Though I have tended toward the good witch side, the bad witch has popped out often enough. I can truly identify with my own mother. At the same time, I had to extricate from deep within myself who I truly was, separate from her. For I am truly not my mother, I am me! And that’s where individuation takes place for the woman, in both accepting that she is like her mother but that she is equally her own being with her own emotions, feelings, and beliefs based on her own experiences in life, totally separate from mother.

My mother is still alive. Nearing 94 she now lives in a nursing home. Since my father’s death 12 years ago she came back into my life in ways I never imagined. Never a good driver and having not driven in 15 years or so at the time of my father’s death, she needed someone to take her everywhere. After a few years of accommodating her from afar, it became clear that she needed to be closer to me. Although I have many siblings I am the eldest daughter in the family and the one she calls upon most often. We moved her out of the family home and into a small apartment nearby. For several years she lived there in the company of her cat and some very nice neighbors, one or two of whom she grew fond of, until it became clear that she could no longer care for herself. Too many accidents and near fires paved the way for the next stage.

It soon became clear to me, as my mother’s demands and needs encroached on my own life, that I was not yet done with my mother. I was not going to be able to just walk away from the bad witch. We still had things to live out together. What they are continue to unfold to this day.

Demanding and petulant, like a spoiled child, she has relied greatly upon the kindness of my heart. I have met in her every permutation of the bad witch. Very rarely, she has thanked me or told other people how much I have done for her. It’s a rarity, but it does occasionally happen. However, most of the time I am the target for all of her own unresolved inner disturbances, resentments, and regrets. It can be pretty hard to be in a small room with a woman who did horrible things to you and still love her, have compassion for her, and be kind to her while she’s belittling you, laughing at your clothing, commenting on your hair, or angry because you didn’t invite her to Thanksgiving. And yet I accept all of this from her, for in her own way she has been my greatest teacher in what it means to be a woman, a mother, a lover, a kind and compassionate being.

To this day, though I sometimes quake in my boots at the sight of her angry demeanor and the mood she’s in when I visit, I am grateful for all she still teaches me. Indeed, I truly am a full-fledged woman because of all that I have learned from her about being a woman. She has often been an excellent example of how not to live, but also how to stoically face what must be faced. Every time I see her I must face myself at her age, in her physical condition, and wonder, “how will I face what she faces every day? How will I choose to face my death? How will I live out the last days of my life?” She is my greatest advisor. She has given me a lot to mull over, and I still learn things about myself and about being a woman from her.

So, to get back to the point of this blog: women, though we are naturally initiated into womanhood, still have to learn to be the woman that we truly are, biologically alike and yet totally separate beings from our own mothers.

I had to find a way to fully embrace and live life as my kind and loving self, the gentle soul I really am, so different from the mother I got. I had to learn to be this kind and loving being toward her too, even after discovering and understanding the truth about her.

But even as a child and living in my mother’s house I was always kind to her, from the time I was very young, complimenting her on her clothing or hair, and every evening at the dinner table I always told her how delicious the food was, without fail. It was almost expected. The meal could not be eaten until I had delivered my opinion, always positive, and she said, “Thank you, Jan.” Only then was the meal consumed in earnest. In a sense, perhaps a part of me was trying to placate the bad witch, being nice so she might be nice in return, but the truth is, I always meant what I said. I really am a kind person and always was, that too is in my DNA.

I am a kind and gentle soul partly because I have had the greatest petty tyrant of a mother to teach me how to be that way. She pushed me, through her neglect and cruelty, to find and embrace my true self, the kind and loving being I am, the part of herself that she always seemed to reject. For some reason that she has not ever revealed she has hated herself and been exceedingly hard on herself. But she was not going to let me be like her. In her own strange, unintentional way she made sure of that.

I often wonder how evolved a being my mother might actually be. The possibility exists that she planned and accepted the role as one of my petty tyrants in this life, and the truth is, it benefitted me! I thank her for that. And yes, I do love her.

A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries

Chuck’s Place: On the Road to Masculinity

“Is this the road to masculinity?” asked the traveler of the stranger.

“Yes, if you turn around,” replied the knowing stranger. “All roads begin with Mother!”

Mother Goddess…
– Illustration from the book, “KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”

Sorry Neo, it’s Mother who is really “The One.” In the beginning there was only oneness of being, life merged inside of mother. Though oneness became twoness at birth, the process of emotional separation and individuation from her power and resource can occupy a lifetime. Many remain attached to mother in her powerful archetypal mystique as benevolent goddess or dangerous witch, casting a shadow over the realization of  their own innate power, magic, and majesty.

Such a goddess status is hardly appropriate for the fallible mortal woman charged with raising a child. In fact, the famous child psychiatrist, Winnicott, desperately attempted to assure mothers that they only needed to be “good enough” for their children to be fine.

What he was referring to was the necessity for mother to only meet minimum requirements of loving presence to enable her child to come online to the vital energy of their own inner circuitry and to become a viable separate magical living being.

This is not to downplay the primal significance of an early connection with mother. If basic minimums are not met a child may perish via a failure to thrive. Beyond that a child may harbor a powerful dependency upon mother for years while the circuits for greater autonomy await her switching them on, in vain.

There is a only a narrow critical period in youth where mother’s attention can activate those switches. Beyond childhood it is the adult ego that takes charge of the circuitboard of the self. In plain English, the adult must take the journey to discover their own riches.

The circuits I am referring to are somewhat identifiable in the neural pathways of the brain and body, the earthly hardware of the soul. However, the mind, the outer wrapping of the soul, is a bit more ephemeral and includes both the ego, the conscious sense of self, and the unconscious, which at its deepest levels, the collective unconscious, contains the basic instinctual knowledge of our species, as well as its spiritual majesty.

In effect, the unconscious has all the knowhow we need to become a person and meet the challenges of life, but access to this inner font of wisdom is first projected upon the agent of mother, who through early attachment serves as conduit to these inner riches. Hence, the immortal goddess status is freely projected upon mother, vestiges of which can last a lifetime. Does mother ever become just the normal human animal we all are?

Given the power of the inner archetypal drama unfolding behind normal growth and development, in addition to the nuances of  one’s personal relationship with their actual mother, a lot can go wrong on the path to adulthood! That’s where adult psychotherapy comes in, helping an individual to individuate through developing a direct relationship between the adult ego self and the golden riches of the deeper self, turning on the circuits of wholeness within the self.

The major challenge on the original road to masculinity is to withdraw one’s all-powerful projection onto mother as “The One.” Fourth grade boys often trade “your mother” jokes to prove their personal power over this primal relationship. One must never show hurt feelings or rage at these jokes and risk suffering the label “mama’s boy.”

The technology of masculinity at this young stage is the ability to fragment and compartmentalize. If one has needy, dependent, soft feelings for mother they must be denied and hidden. To be masculine one must have power over feelings and needs. Instead the focus shifts to competition and the ability to conquer and control. Archetypally the dramas become identification with superheroes or sport’s heroes.

The thrust of adolescence is toward greater autonomy with needs shifting toward social groups and explorations of dating. Young adulthood focuses on deeper autonomy, planting oneself in career directions and the world of work. Intimate relations may move deeper into commitment but frequently dissolve beyond  the romantic idealization stage where love flows freely without obligation. Intimacy is a pathway to the magic, but only with maturity.

With commitment comes a deepening of intimacy and this is where the trouble begins. Masculinity gained through the tools of fragmentation, compartmentalization, competition, power and control are no match for the demands of intimacy, which brings one back to feelings, needs, and the omniscient power of mother that is resurrected in the person of one’s intimate partner.

Mother is the primal first love object who in one form or another is the prototype coloring all future intimacies. For men to truly secure their masculinity they must conquer this powerful female prototype of their infantile dependency needs, frequently represented in archetypal myths as battles with the dragon.

However, conquest of both need for mother and fear of her do not solve the final challenge of masculinity. The final challenge is to be open to deeply loving connection with an intimate partner. To achieve this there is no other road but the return to mother as she appears in the shadow of everyday life encounters, for it is there that we will encounter the ghosts of the nursery.

The ability to tolerate the power of these ghosts that can trigger us into rages and withdrawal is fundamental. The ability to stay present to regulate the archaic emotions that shoot forth from the depths and resolve their associated complexes are the deeper challenges of masculinity.

Adulthood and full intimacy with an other achieved…
– Illustration from the book “KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”

To be able to make contact, to experience union without the need to dissociate, to hold onto self and fully receive an intimate other are all signs that the power of mother has been successfully transformed; the magic has been discovered within.

Mother can be loved for her humanness, but in adulthood she no longer holds the power of archetypal projection. Full masculinity has been reached and one is truly ready for deeper intimacy. Owning this full masculinity transcends the pseudo-masculinity of power grabs, or the relatedness of childish neediness. This is masculinity that embodies its own magic. Thank you, mother!

On the road again,

Chuck

Soulbyte for Tuesday March 14, 2017

Be your own mother and father now, parents to your inner child, kind and generous when appropriate, but equally tough and demanding when that is called for. Develop this inner family of love, strength, and wisdom so that you may guide yourself through the trials of life to fulfillment of all your dreams. For yes, that’s what it’s all about too, fulfilling your dreams. So dream big and enjoy every minute of it. What do you have to lose? Only your childish fears and reluctance to really grow up and take responsibility for yourself—good things to lose! And remember, you are the the only one who can take this on. It’s your life and your dream after all!

-From the Soul Sisters, Jan & Jeanne