Part 12 of a continuing series, (see Part 1 here), documenting and reflecting on a set of states I mapped and moved in 2008. The set revolves around a deeply buried, internalized violence taken on in childhood and adolescence in response to experiences with my father.
As I’ve made my way through the articles highlighting the reactive states of this Vicious Enforcer set having to do with my relationship with authority via my father, I’ve found myself in touch with yet another tentacle that remains over a decade later. Before getting started with the process of transforming the set, I want to share a bit with you about the experience of this unique arm of the whole, and how that experience fits into a living practice of Feelingwork.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from 25 years of mapping and moving distressing sets of feeling states is the profound value of turning attention into the space of inner discomfort. Time and time again I have done this and found not just relief but powerful growth and integration that has supported my continuing development in every way. So I have become hyper alert to signs of hidden and sealed inner chambers. As I’ve gone through sharing The Vicious Enforcer and its related states I’ve noticed some of those signs.
The first post in the Vicious Enforcer series was on April 3, three days after my annual conversation with my father on his birthday. In that conversation I experienced some energy in me that had not been present before, seemingly as a result of a deep dive working through a constellation in November and December of last year. (I intend to share that deep dive sometime in the coming year as a complete example of a path of transformation.) I found it reasonably easy to interrupt his usually interminable rants and challenge him with alternative perspectives and questions. It wasn’t completely satisfying by any means but it felt like a new energy had arisen in my interaction with him. I noticed that, and brought my attention to it.
Over the next few days I entertained scenarios of a new era of connection with my father. I imagined explicitly and transparently disrupting the old patterns while inviting a new way of relating that was more like what I have always longed for, more like what I see most people have experienced in their relationships with their fathers. I’ll say it here: I would love to have the experience of being fathered one day.
I maintain a relationship with the only person who has ever filled the role of coach in my life, (a possibility that directly emerged from the deep dive work I mentioned earlier). We spoke on April 2nd and I shared with her my vision. In talking about it, though, I slipped into a way of describing what I wanted that was fairly confrontational. I said things like I wouldn’t “let him get away with” the old ways of communicating, that sort of thing. She astutely pointed out the incongruence between my stated intention and the way in which I was talking about achieving it. I sighed and took a step back from my ideas about initiating that new series of conversations right away.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve paid attention to my background thoughts as they have occasionally drifted in that direction. Again and again they have returned to that sort of scenario where I am “putting him in his place.” A couple days ago, in a conversation with my sister, we talked about the homelessness and drug addiction problem here in Seattle. She and my father had watched a video about the problem, produced by Sinclair and grossly slanted. She expressed befuddlement about how a person could ever become an addict, about what makes addiction something people choose.
Well, I found myself talking about my father again. I said that people will always choose what seems to them the less painful option, and that the fact of drug addiction points to an alternative inner reality which is even more horrifying than the life of an addict. People do that in all kinds of ways, I said, including our father. I painted him as an addict, saying he was no different from those people he ranted about when we talked on his birthday. I talked about what I had found out in doing ancestry research about the Shirley line, including his great grandfather written about in the newspapers for his drunkenness and abuse. I said he comes from a long line of addicts and is similar to all addicts in that he lives in a fantasy world constructed to prevent intrusion from an inner hell that is intolerable.
After that conversation with my sister I was aware that my painting of his portrait was done from a dark palette, and that other parts of the conversation, for example about the way he was doing a pretty good job taking care of my mother, did not have space to land in me because of my commitment to the dark version. On a walk later, I reflected further, and allowed myself to fantasize about what that portrait-painter part of me really wants. The scenario was clear: This part of me wants to turn the tables. It wants to humiliate him in the same way it felt humiliated by him in my childhood. It wants to shove his face in what it sees as his pathetic stupidity. It wants to shame him with his inhumanity and incapacity for empathy. It wants to tell all the world that he is narcissistic, selfish, bombastic, supercilious, contemptuous, and mean-spirited. This part of me wants his capitulation, his remorse, his abject apology, and even his punishment.
This is a clear sign of work to be done in me. The energy is strong. It wants expression. When it is suppressed, it undermines my wholeness, my aliveness, my thriving. I’ve got this energy bookmarked, and I’ll be watching it over the coming weeks and months. Now is not the time for me to work on it, with upcoming travels. But later this summer sometime I will dive in and excavate this darkness inside of myself, to see if this branch will offer treasures that enable me one day to truly transform my relationship with him. It may never happen, but it certainly will never happen if I don’t do this work.
There have been quite a number of other reverberations I’ve worked through in the intervening years. When your needs are compromised at a very early age, and the compromising factor remains present through many developmental stages as did my father in my life, that factor influences every stage. Our earliest compensations for unmet needs set templates for solutions to future unmet needs, and certain themes develop and metastasize. This set, the Vicious Enforcer, is a fractal representation of the whole of what I became, with many tentacles that wrapped themselves into every corner of my soul. Over time I will share more of the work that has unraveled these tentacles and re-established their access to the core needs and energies that were their birthright.