Esalen Meditation Retreat, Part 2 – Anger and Integrity

During an unexpected break from the meditation workshop, I spoke with a fellow attendee. We were talking about our experiences, both past and current. In not these exact words, he asked me how I became the person I am today, considering the family structure I grew up with. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. At the time I mentioned whatever was coming to me, but it felt like an unfinished thought. That question is pretty loaded, so it has stayed with me  since then.

I decided to bring it up in my therapy session and what came of it was a big picture for me.

Throughout my life I have stepped out of whatever structure has been in place. The structure being the set of expectations and guidelines that family, society, and even our own selves, establish to create some sense of safety. As children we follow our desires and we learn very quickly what is considered okay and not okay. “Don’t touch that. Stop playing with your food. Stop talking.” etc. Some of these guidelines are necessary for  our physical safety, while others are social norms and preferences. As time goes by, and we begin to form ideas on what we want for ourselves, some of these rules and guidelines are either adopted and obeyed or stepped over and out of. How our family and society reacts to this can vary,  but in my case it was met with mixed reactions.

In my family, some siblings stepped out and received a very clear message that this was not okay. For whatever reason they decided to be reeled back in. A few of us kept going, despite the messages, and did so with much internal conflict. I was the latter.

I have always felt that I needed to choose between family/culture/society and my happiness. I knew that I could resign and take the well-worn path of living with the expectations and guideline of my family/culture/society, but I knew I’d be unhappy. So I have long chosen to journey into unknown (to me) territory. In doing so I feel alone, and you know what? If I stayed with the family/culture/society path, I would have felt alone as well. What I also experience is this really inept way of reacting when I feel like I can’t say what I need to or if I feel like I’m not being heard. In these instances, I tend to get angry and there is no hiding it. I lack tact and speak in a severe way. It does me no good and usually makes things worse.

Somehow the topic of my anger and “how did I get here given my family history” merged and what I learned was that in order to break out of my family/culture/society structure, I had to access the only source of strength I know. My dad and his rage. Even though my dad could be loving and kind, his rage was something feared by everyone. It was how I believed I should act if I felt I was wronged.

Being an ACA, I suppose it’s important that I am aware of what I feel, and that I can voice my opinions, even if I feel that others may not agree. In time, I hope that I learn how to be more tactful. As a woman I know that I can be perceived as an annoying bitch. If I were a man, maybe I’d be given the same respect that others gave my dad.

Knowing where this anger in me comes from and why I use it as I do has been a big shift for me. I use to think I was incompetent, insensitive, and invisible. Now, I know why I react the way I do, and have some hope that I can learn how to be seen and heard in healthier ways.


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