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A while ago I wrote about being a Stone Child, and how the stories of a Jungian analyst had helped me make a big leap forward in understanding myself. I know I am not the only stone child alive so I thought I would encourage those of you whose experience feels like a mirror of mine to read the following account of “Warming the Stone Child” taken from another blog
In Jungian psychology, we are all born with a tiny inner flame. If we happen to have loving, protective parents, then that flame grows into a big steady fire by the time we reach adulthood. But, if we have parents who seriously abuse or neglect us, that flame doesn’t grow much.
If our parents didn’t love us, respect us, or protect us, we go through life also not loving ourselves, not respecting ourselves, and not protecting ourselves—unless we finally learn to fan that flame until it burns as bright as it could and would if we just learned how. Here’s how.
HOW TO FAN YOUR FLAME TILL IT BURNS BRIGHT
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., in her audio book Warming The Stone Child: Myths & Stories About Abandonment And The Unmothered Child (1990), teaches that the most important truth about the unmothered child (all of us who were abused or neglected as children) is that there is a light or a flame within all of us that can never go out completely and, if fanned, can grow into a steady, guiding light.
1. Are You an Unmothered Child?
One way to tell if you are an unmothered child is the symptom called “collapsing.” If you suddenly feel afraid, confused, or worthless when people show even the slightest disapproval of you, make small criticisms of you, or otherwise indicate any negative feelings toward you, then you have—at that very moment when you start to feel these terrible things—been mentally and emotionally grabbed and dragged back in time to the horrors of your childhood. You have “collapsed” because your ability to stay in the moment, as an adult with adult powers and an adult mind, has suddenly vanished, at least for the time being. And, this happens every time you suspect disapproval—which you equate with rejection—from anyone and everyone.
All of your accomplishments, no matter how many or how great, can’t take the edge off your fears, confusion, or sense of worthlessness when you experience one of these “collapsing” episodes—and there are so many of them! You feel unprotected, unsure of what to do next, and just want it to be over. You wish you could disappear or even die to end the unbearable sense of separation and loss.
That’s when your light flickers and sputters the most and threatens to burn out. But, the good news is that it can never burn out. No matter how horrific your childhood was, your light is still burning. It’s always burning. Thank goodness! But, that’s not enough for us to be happy. It’s just enough for us to survive! We deserve so much more than mere survival, especially after all we’ve been through. We deserve to thrive! And we can—ironically—because we did suffer so much as children and developed special survival skills that only unmothered children seem to possess in great quantities. But, first, we need to learn more about the light.
2. What Is the Inner Light?
Abused or neglected children eventually become painfully aware of the fact that we were abused or neglected by our parents. We can dwell on all the beatings, rejections, name-callings, and other unmentionable things we suffered from the very people who were supposed to give us the greatest love and protection against the world. And that all this happened when we were most vulnerable to attack and to rejection because of our young age, completely defenseless, without sufficient strength, knowledge, or power to fight back, run away, or even take cover. But, that won’t make it better. That won’t stop us or protect us from “collapsing.”
People who grow up abused and neglected often want unconditional love, even as adults. We tend to believe that, since we didn’t have much love in our childhood, if we just could find the right love—or enough love—everything would be so much better in our lives. “It would be such a relief!” we think to ourselves. So, we spend a lot of time giving our love away too freely to family members, friends, and lovers, hoping that, someday, these relationships will blossom into the beautiful loving, reciprocal relationships we always dreamed of. But, that never happens. Instead, we become codependent slaves to our loved ones. And, whether they know they hold this power over us or not, they can’t help but abuse it. Who wouldn’t take advantage of someone willing to play the loyal slave, always offering to help and never asking anything in return (though secretly wanting love very badly)?
But all the love in the world won’t fan our inner flames to prevent us from “collapsing” at the slightest sign of disapproval. Dr. Estes explains that showering a child with endless amounts of unconditional love and slavish attention does nothing but create a demanding and insufferable little beast. Slavish love is a form of abuse, too, because the parents neglect the important duty of providing guidance and boundaries for the child, causing the little beast to grow up and similarly “collapse” at the slightest sign of disapproval. So, if no amount of external love will ever make our inner light burn brighter, then what will? The internal mother.
3. How to Make It Burn Bright
Dr. Estes teaches that in myths around the world the internal mother is the keeper of our light. We all have one who is supposed to fan our flames and keep them bright. But, if we were unmothered by our external mothers, then our internal mothers are still too young to guard and care for our light. The psychic secret is that to grow our internal mothers we have to be willing to be decent and good to ourselves. The more we are willing to accept self love and self respect and to generally care for every part of ourselves, including the parts that we normally hate about ourselves (you can love some parts of yourself more than others, but you must love, respect, and accept all parts of yourself), the more you can feel your internal mother growing and see the manifestations of her in your external life.
As our internal mothers mature, they show their presence in our lives by giving us something far more valuable than love because it is the only thing that can help us stop “collapsing” into the helplessness of our childhood: guidance.
Guidance of intuition, guidance of common sense, and guidance of consciousness (to consciously know what we’re made of, what we’re capable of, what our good points are, what our bad points are, and guiding ourselves through life with all that knowledge). This is the deep internal mothering that, as unmothered children, we never had. This is what was missing from our childhood. But, no matter how traumatic or tragic our childhood was, that light is still burning inside of us.
4. The Special Gifts of the Unmothered Child
If we accept, love, respect, and care for the many parts of us, our internal mother can keep our flame burning strong enough to protect us from “collapsing” most of the time. But, even then, there will still be times when even the strongest among us must feel weak, as when we go through breakups or become suddenly unemployed. Then we are likely to “collapse” again. It’s best to avoid any difficult work or big life decisions, as much as possible, during this time and wait until the temporary darkness and coldness has passed before going forth boldly into the world again, with our bright, warm inner light. This is yet another way of listening to our intuition, common sense, and consciousness about what is best for us.
Unmothered children who grow their internal mothers to keep their flames burning bright enjoy these special gifts: Enormous courage, tremendous strength, and a near-psychic level of intuition. From a very early age, we had to closely look for any and all clues that our parents would suddenly go off on us, so we became experts at reading people and situations for the earliest signs of real danger approaching. These powerful survival skills—once we get the “collapsing” incidents under control—enable us to back out of most dangerous situations much more quickly than the people who seem to have had happier childhoods. And, here is the best part of all: The greatest healers in the world are unmothered children! They are the teachers, leaders, writers, artists, and musicians who know how to touch us and move us with healing, soothing, beautiful words, sounds, and visions.
I don’t know if Dr. Estes is an unmothered child, but she is definitely a great healer. She teaches these lessons about childhood abandonment in the most kind, caring, and loving voice that I have ever heard! In her audio book, she retells old myths from around the world and interprets them in terms of the lessons they hold to help heal unmothered children. Whenever I listen to it again after some time has passed, especially the first CD, I am surprised at how profoundly I am affected yet again.
Warming The Stone Child is for everyone who wants to minimize their “collapsing” incidents and to turn their incredible powers of intuition into a guiding light to travel through life more safely. I highly recommend it. Be awesome! Be your own hero!