I woke up this morning feeling very clear about something in my life around which the giant black-winged bird of bitterness circles, like a creature sure of its prey. This is good. It allows me to further explore some of the parameters of this ‘state of being’ named bitterness from the inside rather just from without.
Bitterness. A personal HOTSPOT! This reminds me of what I heard during the ten year period of my life from 1980 – 1990 when I attended weekly 12-step meetings: Resentments kill.
As I look around today at my inner deadly wound that could feed a great swell of bitterness (and of resentment) inside of me today I see that these two states of being must be intimately connected one to the other.
Somehow I had some profound inner certainties arise when I ‘went through treatment’ in 1980, but most of what my inner self knew was not confirmed within the confines of the 12-step meetings I attended. I was brand new to any form of recovery, and was the first person in the long line of my family and ancestry to do so. Yet when I encountered the 12-steps that demanded me to understand that I could be ‘restored to sanity’ — I knew fundamentally that I had no experience with ‘sanity’ in my life and had never, ever had the chance to explore its blessings.
‘Recovery’ people around me told me I was ‘resisting’ recovery as I questioned from the insides of myself what made sense about this ‘new way of life’ that was being presented to me and what did not. “You are rationalizing,” they told me. “You are intellectualizing,” they told me.
When I tried to do my first ‘4th step’ in treatment and tried to do it right, I tried to write about my ‘resentments’. Instantly, as soon as I set my recovery-minded pen to paper I encountered an insanely abusive experience of my 9th grade high school self — and my little ‘recovery ship’ blew itself right out of the water.
And there was nobody around me to help me understand the insanely abusive childhood I had lived for 18 years. There was nobody there — oddly and actually enough — to help me work with the TRUTH that was supposedly at the heart of these 12-step recovery programs.
On my own, and from within my body, my mind, my self and within my heart of hearts I DID know something important that I used within my own healing. I knew that every single time I feel ANGER, and every single time I might bump up against or crash into something that could be named RESENTMENT, what I was-am truthfully encountering is the line as I KNOW it between right and wrong. Every time ‘anger’ or ‘resentment’ appears within me — and as I can see today, the risk for ‘bitterness’ as well, I know that something I HIGHLY VALUE has been touched upon so that I have another extremely important piece of information about who and how I am in the world.
I value RIGHT. I know the difference between right and WRONG. Whenever a WRONG has been committed somewhere, my inner alarm of anger, rage, resentment, and/or bitterness goes off. Instantly and loudly!
What I do with the information about right and wrong is up to me. Swirling around in the topsy-turvy inner world of anger, rage, resentment and bitterness helps no one RIGHT a WRONG that has been committed.
Ultimately this entire topic, to me, is about this one single thing: If we as individuals have a strong and powerfully clear inner sense of RIGHT versus WRONG — we can be at very high risk of suffering the consequences of ‘holding onto’ the emotional states encountering breaches of RIGHT versus WRONG will alert us to. If I cannot give myself permission to identify for my thinking-acting-choosing self something related to a WRONG that I identify, no hope for contributing something to make the world a better place – even if that ‘world’ is simply my own little tiny piece of it.
Interestingly (to me) the shaky platform of possible resentment and bitterness for me today has to do with something very important to me: The work I am doing with my mother’s words so that I can publish a complete EXPOSE of the inner world of my mother that NOBODY ELSE seemed to detect outside of our family.
As I work with her words, and as I mentioned in recent posts, discover that words she wrote about her feelings and attitudes of other ADULTS in her life 50 years ago still have the power to unsettle, upset and possibly hurt those living people IF I publish my mother’s words as she wrote them.
I find that this MAKES ME MAD! These ‘public’ people who today would take a stand to protect their own self from the hurt of my mother’s 50-year-old words are the exact same people WHO NEVER SAW MY MOTHER’S TRUE — TERRIBLY ABUSIVE — OTHER SELF during those years that I especially (and also my siblings) most needed SOMEONE TO HELP US!!!
My intent on publishing this biography – or expose of a monster — is to a large extent to help everyone possible outside a severely abusive parent’s home begin to understand more and more about how much terror, trauma and suffering for infants and children can be going on BEHIND THE NICEY-NICE PUBLIC FACADE of someone as ‘charmingly persuasive’ as my mother was.
That I NOW, after 18 years of unbelievable torture and abuse have to WORRY about the FEELINGS of those same people who did NOT SEE WHAT MY MOTHER WAS CAPABLE OF, or did see, and felt they had no way to intervene on my or my siblings’ behalf, MAKES ME FEROCIOUSLY ANGRY!!
This is UNFAIR, UNJUST and just plain WRONG! Or is it? Not according to the law — the same system of law, I might add, who should have arrested my mother (and my father) and charged them with the crimes of assuault, battery, abuse, terror and torture and sentenced them — an imprisoned them both for no less than
What this situation is doing for me right now is bringing up right in front of my face what the choice-point feels like — in the present moment — between LEARNING something when a serious breach of RIGHT and WRONG – injustice, lack of fairness — appears, or letting it continue to perpetuate the old wounds so that bitterness and resentment can throw me off of my own good life track.
This brings me to mentioning something that belongs in this discussion at the same time that it is an extremely difficult point for severe infant-child abusers to identify and tackle: Irony, ambivalence and paradox.
These three states of mind were missing within the body-brain-mind-self of our abusers — especially if our abusers were Borderline Personality Disorder people!
This fact leaves us with the whole giant mess of WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!! Without having been given protection or reprieve — at the same time we did not get any version of a handle on how to HANDLE ironic, ambivalent and paradoxical conditions in our lives!!
What I am describing above about having to ‘protect’ the feelings, privacy and rights of grown up people who certainly DID NOT — for whatever reason — even begin to assure that I had those same qualities protected in my childhood — is ironical. It presents me with my own experience of ambivalence as I consider ‘both sides of the picture’. And you bet there is a profound, fundamental paradox present in this situation.
But I CANNOT CHANGE THE REALITY! None of it. Whenever anger, resentment, bitterness appear, there is a sure chance that irony, ambivalence and paradox has appeared RIGHT within the conditions that stimulated our ‘fight’ stress response reaction. How do we find and create our own inner point of calm in the midst of this STORM?
In other words, how do we make our own self ‘RIGHT WITHIN’ while we live in the real world? Simply finding a way to ‘intellectually (left brain)’ understand reasonably what this whole mess I am experiencing right now is all about will NOT solve the emotional experience of it.
Those of us who have suffered from extreme abuse have an entire universe of body memory, body feeling, and right-brain emotional experience connected to these HOTSPOTS in life. We have to be aware of this — as I was 30 years ago when I entered so-called ‘recovery’ and could find no one to help me include my own inner wisdom and knowledge with the 12-step ‘plan’ for ‘recovery’.
“Follow your instincts,” would be my most simple and accurate advice. If you FEEL anger, range, bitterness, resentment — you are face-to-face with SOME kind of injustice that has been committed and still might exist. LOOK AT THE INJUSTICE that is at the heart of what stimulated your reaction. You have been ‘trauma triggered’. WHAT DO YOU TRULY KNOW ABOUT IT? WHAT YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED? Tend to the wound that needs healing within YOU (and within those you love and care about, as well).
But do not pretend that the injustice does not exist. If we HAVE these reactions I am talking about, I firmly and absolutely believe that they are physiologically triggered by our immune system’s response to harm and to threat of harm! This HAS to be a fact because all our emotions, especially our most intense, powerful, primitive survival-based emotions of FEAR AND ANGER (as well as SADNESS) are directly tied into our basic nervous system (body-brain) which is PROTECTED by our immune system response.
Human life is complicated. No way around this fact.
What stimulated the immune-triggered developmental changes in my mother than made her grow into the ‘kind of person’ she was meant that the powerful inner bitterness of a terribly wounded, powerless but still FIGHTING little child removed from my mother the power of consciousness about what had happened to her, ‘what’ she became as a result of it, how bitter she was – AND HOW MEAN AND DANGEROUS SHE WAS.
Every single time my mother uses a single, solitary word ‘against’ another adult in her life 50 years ago is PROOF of the quality of MEAN my mother was. But these tiny words, no matter what they were, no matter how disparaging and offensive they might appear NOW for the people she was writing about — were NOTHING compared to what was going on within the ‘home’ she terrorized and controlled.
Yes, I DO profoundly wish to expose the kind of ‘monster’ my mother was. I want to DO SOMETHING to help others ‘out there in the world’ begin to wake up and pay attention when their own INNER WARNING system goes off inside of themselves that SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PERSON!
How else are we truly going to make any progress whatsoever toward protecting suffering infants and children who are being tormented, tortured, traumatized and abused — by viciously cruel, mean and dangerous parents — FREELY and without consequence.?
I am within conflict. I am willing to change the names of the people my mother wrote about. But I do not wish to alter the pattern of my mother’s mean words. They are what this story is about.
My personal feelings right now are mine to deal with. They let me know that I have great JUSTIFIABLE anger at the adults in my childhood that did not HELP me or my siblings. But as the 12-step programs DO SAY, holding onto the anger, bitterness and resentments do not make anything better. They can educate us about right and wrong, about choice, about opportunities for improving life all the way around. But left alone as simple physiological states tied to mental patterns that are destructive help no one.
In case there are readers who are unfamiliar with my ‘story’, here are some links to read (warning: may trigger):